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Tolerance: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

A Study in What the Bible Says about “Judging”

As we begin a new year, one which appears to promise that the cultural discourse will only get louder and more strident, it will be good to review what Dr. Rogers said about “tolerance” and what the Bible has to say about it. In what way should Christians be tolerant? What should that look like for us in the coming year? This month’s study gives us deeper insight into this hot-button issue.

The new religion in America is tolerance.  It used to be that the best-known verse was John 3:16.  But no longer.  The verse people will quote almost more than any other is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.”  And today the only sin in America is to call sin, “sin.” 

Tolerance (as the dictionary originally defined it) is a good word. It means:

“to recognize and respect other’s beliefs and practices, without having to share them. To bear with someone or something not especially liked.” 

That’s true tolerance, and it’s a virtue.  Many things in society we do not approve of or believe in, many other kinds of beliefs we do not share, but we tolerate, and we ought to tolerate.  That is good tolerance.

But the tolerance that’s become today’s new religion doesn’t simply mean we put up with something we don’t like; it demands that without critical thought or discernment we must accept all truth as equal.  We cannot say, “This is right; that is wrong.”  If you do, you’re “intolerant”—the unpardonable sin in our culture today.

Of course we should respect all people, and if we disagree, we should live with them peaceably while still remaining true to our faith.   I wouldn’t force my faith on anybody if I could.  And I couldn’t if I would.  I believe in absolute freedom to choose in matters of faith. 

But there is an uncritical tolerance that our children and grandchildren are being taught in school that says, “All truths are equal.”

So if today you say you believe in the inerrancy of the Word of God or the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection, people may say, “That’s wonderful—that’s your truth—now let me tell you my truth,” with no fixed standard for anybody’s truth.  All “truths” are considered equal. 

There was a time when if you preached on the inerrancy of the Word of God, or the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection, someone would say, “I don’t agree with that.”  And you could argue and discuss and take the Word of God and other sources and go back and forth, trying to determine what is true or not true.  But not today.  If you were to tell someone, “I believe in the virgin birth, the absolute sinless deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His vicarious death upon the cross,” today they would say, “Well, how nice.  That’s your truth.  Now let me tell you my truth.” 

And when you get down to it, there is no fixed standard for anybody’s truth.  All truth’s today are considered equal. 

What was the “old tolerance”—the tolerance we grew up with?

The old tolerance says people have a right to their opinions.  The new tolerance says all opinions are right.  If you say, “Jesus Christ is the only way,” you’re in trouble.  If you say there’s a fixed standard of right and wrong, you’re going to be looked down upon as an intolerant bigot. No “tolerance” for you.

The new tolerance says we’re not merely to allow all views to be expressed, we must endorse all truths a morally equivalent. We’re not just to forbear.  The new tolerance says we must approve.  Therefore, our children are being put into sensitivity classes—and I’m not exaggerating—where they’re taught that one sexual preference, as opposed to another sexual preference, is equally good, and we’re to approve all sexual preferences as a matter of equality.  One form of marriage as over against another, so-called, form of marriage (two people of the same sex), must be looked upon as morally equivalent.  And we are told—and in public school your children are taught now—to accept this under the guise of “tolerance.”

Now we come to the Word of God. What does it say?

1. Turn to Matthew 7:1. Unfortunately—but not surprisingly, given today’s climate—Matthew 7:1 is perhaps the most quoted Bible verse today.  Fill in the missing key words:

          __________ not, that ye be not __________.

a. Who is speaking here?

b. Turn back to chapter 5. Taken together (Chapters 5-7), what is the name that has been given to this discourse from the Lord Jesus?  The _____________ on the _____________.

(Luke also records this message in his Gospel, in chapter 6.)

If you were to say today in the public square, “This is right and this is wrong,” someone is going to correct you: “No, no, no. Jesus said, ‘Thou shalt not judge.’”  Well, let’s read it in context. 

2. Continuing in Matthew 7:

2For with what ________________ ye judge, ye shall be __________: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote” [mote = like a speck of sawdust] “that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam” [that is, a log, like an overhead beam in a house] “that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye, and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou _______________, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. 6 Give not that which is _______ unto the ______, neither cast ye your __________ before ___________, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” 

People say that Jesus said we’re not to judge.  May I tell you frankly, that is not so.  Jesus taught us to judge. 

3. Turn to John 7:24, where Jesus clearly and plainly teaches us to judge. 

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” 

You cannot say Jesus told us not to judge.

Wait a minute. So, if we are to judge, yet Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not,” what’s going on here? Did Jesus not mean what he said in Matthew 7:1?



When our Lord says in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged,” He’s talking about people being intolerant of faults in other people.  He’s not saying we deny faults in other people.  In fact, He said, once we get the log out of our own eye, we’ll see more clearly how to get the speck out of our brother’s eye.  He’s not saying there’s no speck or that it doesn’t need to be taken away. He is saying, “You are forbidden, forbidden, to exercise unmerciful, self-righteous, hypocritical judgment or condemnation of another person, especially when you, yourself, are guilty of doing the same thing.” Jesus is not saying we’re not to judge and evaluate those philosophies, statements, situations, events, etc., we encounter in life.


4. Let’s look at another verse that’s a good commentary on Mathew 7 verse 1.

Turn to Luke 6, verses 36-37. This is from Luke’s own account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and is a further fleshing-out of Matthew 7:1.

Be ye therefore ______________, as your Father also is _____________. _________ not, and ye shall not be _________: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: ______________, and ye shall be _______________. 

Jesus is saying that the person with problems needs your mercy, you help, your forgiveness, you love, support—but not your judgment or condemnation.  That doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, whatever you’re doing is all right.”  If what they’re doing is not all right, if it is sin, you need to lovingly rebuke, but you have no right to judge. 


5. Turn to  John 5:22.

Even the _____________ judgeth no man but hath committed all judgment to the _______.

Think on that for a moment. The Bible says, when you judge other people whether or not what they’re doing is right or wrong, without mercy, in a condemning, unmerciful way, you are usurping the rights and the prerogatives of the Lord Jesus Christ!  And you are also acting like the devil. 

6. Turn to Revelation 12:10.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the ___________ of our brethren is cast down, which _____________ them before our God day and night.

Don’t go around judging other people, condemning other people, examining their motive.  The devil is the accuser of the brethren.  There is no one big enough, no one just enough, no one loving enough to judge us but God Himself, of whom  Genesis 18:25 says, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

7. Returning to Matthew 7, verses 15 and following,

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall _________ them by their ___________. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every _________ tree bringeth forth ________ fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth _______ fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their __________  ye shall __________ them.

We are going to dig deeper into this passage, and as we do, I want you to keep in mind three words:

Discriminate     Tolerate       Examine

These three words are the backbone of our study as we talk about tolerance, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Discrimination has become an ugly word today. But in its true meaning, to discriminate means to see, to discern what’s good and what’s bad. When someone says you have “discriminating taste,” that’s a compliment.

Discrimination is simply evaluation, elimination, and then appropriation.

  • I evaluate: this is good or this is bad.
  • I eliminate: I turn from that which is bad.
  • I appropriate: I choose that which is good.
  • In the truest meaning of “discriminate,” I evaluate to choose the better and avoid the not-so-good.

If you don’t teach your children to discriminate, you have failed as a father or mother.

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus is saying you have to learn that there is a difference between right and wrong.  In this same chapter, Jesus has just said in verses 6, “Don’t give that which is holy to dogs.  Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”  Sounds to me like you have to discriminate to find out who the dogs and the hogs are and where they are.  The Bible clearly and plainly teaches discrimination, which is the partner of wisdom and discernment.

8. Now let’s go outside Matthew 7 to another context.   Turn to First Corinthians 2:15.

“He that is _______________, _____________ all things.” 

a. So Jesus is saying that if you judge, you are less of a Christian, right?

The word “judge” used here comes from the Greek word krinô. It has a number of meanings.  It can mean to separate. Or to choose.  Or to select, to determine, to condemn.  The meaning must be determined by the context.   

The word as used here is, the spiritual individual discerns.  Are you spiritual?  Then you’re going to learn to judge all things. The wise person understands.  He sees through.  He makes the evaluation.  He makes the discrimination.  He “judges all things.” 

9. Turn now to First John 4:1.

Beloved, _____________  _____  every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of ______: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

a. Why does John feel the need to warn the believers? (v. 2-3).

b. What two cosmic forces do you see lined up against one another in verses 2 and

John, known as the “Beloved Disciple,” goes on to assure the believers that they will overcome the evil one because (see v. 4)

To summarize the argument against the idea that Christians are to “Judge not,” don’t go around with pudding in between your ears saying, “Well, I’m not going to say that anything is right or anything is wrong because Jesus said not to judge.”  To the contrary.  Jesus said, “Judge righteous judgment,” and “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” 

10. We know certain things are right and certain things are wrong, but what is to be our guide so we don’t become little judges making our own personal evaluation of things based upon our own opinion?


Today, our world hates moral absolutes.  If you say, “This is right and that is wrong,” if you confront society with the moral absolutes of the Bible, they will call you bigoted. They will call it “hate speech.”  Narrow.  Prejudicial.  Arrogant.  Self-centered.  Narrow-minded.  Fundamentalist.  We must teach our children there is a right and there is a wrong.

Adultery is wrong because God said so.  Fornication is wrong because God said so.  Sodomy is wrong because God says so.  Stealing is wrong because God says so.  Lying is wrong because God says so.  Drunkenness is wrong because God said so.   We have God’s Word.   It is the measuring stick. Increasingly, more people will call that “unloving.”  That is the opposite of what is actually true. 


11. Turn to Isaiah 58:1

_____ aloud, spare not, lift up thy ___________ like a ______________, and show My people their ____________________, and the house of Jacob their ______.

Those who have been in the military know how jarring it can be when the bugler sounds “Reveille.” You’re going along sleeping peacefully, and suddenly a bugle sounds! It will wake you up! God says to fail to lift up your voice like a trumpet and show My people their sin is unloving

12. Turn to Leviticus 19:17.

17 Thou shalt not _______ thy brother in thine heart: thou ________ in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer [permit, allow] sin upon him.

a. Clearly, what should we not do?

b. What should [“thou shalt”] you do?

Notice that to “rebuke your neighbor/brother” is placed in this verse as the opposite of hating your brother. So to rebuke sin is loving; to fail to rebuke sin is hate.  Love says we must speak clearly.  The pastor who loves is not the pastor who glosses over sin.  And the believer who loves is the one who speaks clearly.

In Summary

  • There is a time where we discriminate, evaluating life according to the Word of God. “This is right and this is wrong.”
  • The clear, biblical teaching of the Bible is not to “tolerate” sin, but to gently rebuke it in a brother or sister. To recognize sin and call it sin is not intolerant, it is biblical.
  • Today, our culture has turned the meaning of “tolerance” on its head, and instead of “forbearing” with something with which we cannot agree based upon Scripture, we are being told we must agree and hold as equally valid those things which God has said are an anathema to Him.
  • We face the challenge today, unlike earlier generations, of making clear to our generation that “tolerance” means forbearance, not approval.

Now I want to tell you some good news about judgment.  Our judgment was taken by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Therefore, I do not need to endure judgment because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in agony and blood, died for us.  And “There is therefore now no condemnation, no judgment, to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

As we close today’s study, let’s pray together.

Father God, help me today to examine my own heart.  Don’t let me, dear Lord, be a hypocrite, preaching to others, trying to get sawdust from their eye when there’s a log in mine.  Help us, dear Lord, to know how to discriminate between right and wrong and teach our children.  Help us, dear Lord, to know how to show tolerance to those who are not perfect, as we’re not perfect, and to show love to them, Lord, and to help them, and to gently remove the speck that may be in their eye.  And Heavenly Father, help us all to see ourselves as we really are, if there is indeed some sin in our own lives that needs to be dealt with. 
In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Posted by dave hare at 12:18 PM


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