Patience, tolerance, and acceptance sometimes have confusing or overlapping meanings in our day and age. The Bible tells us time and again to "come out and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17) from sinful people, to "not even eat" with certain kinds of people (1 Cor 5:11), and to avoid conforming to sinful desires (1 Peter 1:14). At the same time, we are also told that the Lord is patient (2 Peter 3:9), that we should be among the people (1 Cor 5:10), and we should adapt our approach so the message can be heard (1 Cor 9:22).
Sometimes, when we try to build relationships with folks we are accused of tolerating sin. While we try to preach to the lost we are accused of accepting sinful choices. While we plead with those on the outside over a lifetime we are accused of watering down the Gospel message. It's as if in trying to be loving, caring, and kind the church is accused of not being judgemental enough!
But nothing had changed from the pronouncements of the prophets to the preaching of Jesus: sin separates us from God and God wants to bring us back (2 Cor 5:18). Sin is real. Sin is dangerous. Sin leads to death (Gen 2:17, Rom 6:23).
To those that want to confuse acceptance of sin or tolerance of sin, with a hopeful patience we turn to the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds in Matthew 13. Some want to judge too quickly and in doing so Jesus says they will sweep away the children of God along with the evil they seek to destroy. No: we wait, we hope, and we plead with those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master. We wait, hope, and plead with the lost and sinful people, that their hearts may be changed, their eyes may be opened, and their ears may hear the call of Jesus, bringing us "out of darkness and into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9).
"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:12. Wrong is still wrong. Right is still right. There is one Judge and He will save those found in Christ. Our continuing plea then is that those on the outside finally repent so they can be found in Christ and be saved. We pray that the Word of the Lord will finally convict their hearts. And while we wait, we show them the love of God who "proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). This isn't a kind of love that accepts sin, but one that hopes.
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