Lamenting, Tolerating, Examining

To spin-off from my previous post about the sanctity of human life, I’d like to take the focus from public, societal tolerance for sin to a smaller, more individual tolerance for sin. Jack Schultz, an anthropology professor at Concordia University, had a provocative statement in his article “Culture and the Christian” in the latest issue of Modern Reformation on such a topic. In the context of speaking about Christians dealing with cultural change, he writes:

“Society’s tolerance for sin should not be near as much concern for the Christian as his own tolerance for the sin his culture has sanctioned.”

What I took this to mean is a call for the elect to examine themselves to see what sins they might tolerate, possibly without consciously thinking about them. Instead of merely lamenting how far society has fallen in its corruption and tolerance of sin (i.e. crime, divorce, etc.), we should be actively concerned with our own tolerance for sins that have been normalized in society (like selfishness, anger, gossip, lust, etc.). Jerry Bridges discussed sin on this level in Respectable Sins, where he talked about how sin isn’t just “out there” in “culture,” but is a reality for all of us in our own lives.

Part of this in my life is that not only do I complain about the big sins society readily accepts, but I also can easily judge visible, representative evangelical machines like the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition for speaking out against only the hot button issues. Yes, these organizations might aid unbelievers in painting a caricature of Christians (with the help of secular media), but I don’t think our portrayal in the secular world should be our chief concern, either.

What we should be concerned about is to faithfully “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Part of fulfilling this call is speaking out against “big” sins like abortion, and part of it is faithfully ministering to the people we come in contact with everyday.

So the question I need to ask myself after writing this is “What sins do I tolerate that are acceptable in society?”

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