Deuteronomy 21-23: Tolerance

Tolerance.  It is one of those words that floats around our society now, much the same way the phrase “politically correct” floated around a decade ago.  Tolerance talks about assuming everything is acceptable, even those things that deviate from an accepted set of values.  Webster’s dictionary defines it as “the act of allowing something”, among other things.  In our current context, tolerance is more commonly used to talk about the willingness to accept habits, feelings, beliefs that are different from your own.  If you are unable or unwilling to accept those varying habits, feelings or beliefs then you are labelled as intolerant.

Christians are more often than not the focus of the label intolerant.  I would point out however, that our societal use of the word and concept of tolerance is rather one-sided.  If one does not agree with the right of two men to raise a child, then one is labelled as intolerant.  However, the unwillingness of those two men to respect the beliefs of their detractors is considered acceptable and even laudable.  And so the concept is one-sided.  As long as one stays on the “right” side of the hot topic of the moment (abortion, homosexuality, educational reform, prostitution, ect.), then one remains safely in the tolerant camp; disagree with the “right” side of the hot topic, then one is quickly exiled and labelled as intolerant.

As you read Deuteronomy 21-23 today, consider just how much on the “wrong” side God must be.  Sure, you could argue that the Old Testament and its understanding of these topics is antiquated and culturally irrelevant.  Until you consider the history of the times.  Homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, bi-sexual orgies, none of these things were uncommon during the time when Israel was conquering Canaan.  Rituals and practices that were refined and further propagated during the reigns of the Assyrians, the Babylonians and finally the Romans.  The writer of Ecclesiastes lamented: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.”

There are those who want us to believe that there is a new normal on the rise, a new voice for what we should accept and tolerate.  A new voice that is thinning out that ripple between right and wrong, smoothing the line between what is acceptable and what is deviant.  Who knows, maybe the word deviant will disappear entirely from our cultural lexicon as everything become normal.

People are broken, me most of all some of the time.  But that doesn’t make my brokenness acceptable, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have a right to flaunt and revel in my brokenness.  Love me, accept me, absolutely.  But the last time I checked, loving someone meant rescuing them from their brokenness, not enabling them to continue in it.  I believe that is what Jesus did, is it not?  For mark my words my friends, the end of the road for most forms of brokenness is a flaming pile of debris that throws shrapnel for miles in all directions.  As a father trying to raise four girls in a world that tells them to explore their sexuality in any way they see fit; and to accept the words of their politically correct teachers who have been trained in politically correct curriculum over the Word of God; and to make sure you never offend anyone by telling them that what they are doing just might be wrong…I can already see the shrapnel flying and it’s headed right for my girls.

I could go on.  In fact, I’ve just deleted a whole section about our school system and the picture our “pubic” broadcaster, the CBC, paints of us Canadians, but I felt it would get me in more hot water than I need to be in right now.

I want to follow in the steps of Jesus, who loved everyone exactly where he found them, in exactly whatever state he found them in.  Our society would applaud me for that.  The problem is, Jesus didn’t leave people where he found them or in the state he found them in.  He loved them, but in loving them he looked them in the eye and said: “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”  Jesus was loving, more loving than we can every comprehend; but that love refused to let him leave us in our brokenness.  Jesus has healed our brokenness, we really need to stop wallowing in it.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 24-27

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