Should You Tolerate Sin and Unhealthy Acts?
“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” There are also few better known verses from the Bible. Unfortunately, there is a lot of debate over who exactly this “neighbor” is. Many Christians assume it is like-minded religious peers, but my entire life I have been taught that this verse really speaks about those you disagree with based on their actions as well as their beliefs.
Think about it this way, most people aren’t best friends with their neighbors. Most don’t even have a say who their neighbor is. Often these neighbors are constant annoyances who don’t seem to have anything in common with you or your family. But what is the best way to interact with these neighbors? Constant friendliness and attempts to open dialogue.
However, some Christians don’t seem to believe in tolerance. Pastor Dan Carter in fact believes “Tolerance is a recipe for societal disaster,” as he titled his recent column in the Amarillo Globe-News.
He begins his statement by citing a recent study from a Yale University annual sex conference attendees confided that 9 percent had been paid for sex, and 3 percent had engaged in bestiality. The workshop was aimed at teaching tolerance towards others who engage in “taboo” sexual activities. Carter refers to this instead as a way “to desensitize ourselves to destructive practices.”
Now, I don’t aim to take on the complex debate behind sexual activities outside the norm, nor do I am to condone or condemn either of these activities or others mentioned in his piece. Instead, I find this pastor’s approach to be the biggest issue.
As our modern world shows, there are many different interpretations on what constitutes a sinful sexual relationship, aside from the commandment clearly banning adultery. For the sake of this argument, we will assume Carter’s position that incest, “consensual pain” during sex, homosexuality, bestiality, and prostitution are all immoral acts of equal standing.
Would it not be more helpful to reach out to these people and show them tolerance for their acts, as well as kindness, hoping over a longer period of time you might be able to show them the way to God? You may never be able to change their particular activities, but you may be able to introduce them to the warmth and forgiveness of the lord, rather than shunning them into the shadows.
There is a difference between tolerating and condoning. Missionaries working with drug addicts in the inner city do not condone drug use. Their entire goal is to introduce these people to the lord and allow their spiritual path to hopefully lead them away from substance abuse, with only some support and guidance from caring staff. If they stopped tolerating the drug use however, and refused drug addicts in church-run soup kitchens or shelters, the people truly in need would just stop coming to a source of spiritual, emotional, and physical aid.
Similarly, by casting out those Carter marks in his opinion piece, he and many Christians like him refuse spiritual guidance to those who may be in need.