To appreciate fully Jesus’ righteous intolerance of sin, we must remember that He is one with God the Father. God describes Himself repeatedly as a “jealous God” (See Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19, Nahum 1:2, Zechariah 1:14).
Unfortunately, many have taken offense to the word “jealous,” due to a misapprehension of its true meaning.
To be jealous is simply to advance one’s rights to the exclusion of the rights of others. To put it another way, to be jealous is to be intolerant of any rivalry or unfaithfulness.
For example, a husband has exclusive rights to his wife. If another man encroaches upon the husband’s marital rights, then the husband is jealous, not of his wife, but for his marriage.
In the same way, but to an infinitely greater degree, God is jealous for His church. For God to be jealous signifies the advancement of His glory over anything that we would substitute for it. This would include not only literal idols and false gods, but also the figurative idolatry shown by elevating anything that is not God above God.
He has made us, and we are His. As such, it is His everlasting right to have our unending devotion, worship, and praise. Nothing else, and no one else, has a right to these.
Logic and Reason
As Christians, we acknowledge God as God, and accordingly, we recognize Jesus as Lord. Because of our submission to Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we also share in His righteous intolerance of sin.
This presents a problem, however.
Those who accuse the Church of being intolerant are those who have NOT recognized God as God or Jesus as Lord.
If they recognize neither God’s authority nor Jesus’ divinity, then consequently, they will not recognize the church’s intolerance as being righteous. A person whose gods are “logic and reason” will not concede that Jesus was anything but a great teacher at best.
Fortunately, C. S. Lewis has already cleared this matter up for us:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1952.)
As Lewis makes plain, true logic and reason will lead only to one conclusion for a Christian. That is the same conclusion that their hearts have already led them to—Jesus’ lordship.
So, what does it mean when a Christian says, “Jesus is Lord?”
A pastor friend of mine defines “Lord” as “one having power and authority to whom obedience is due.” It would follow, then, that to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of one’s life would be simply recognizing Him for who He is and giving Him what is His.
Acknowledging this lordship comes with a price, though.
Following Jesus requires sacrifice. Sacrifice involves no longer following the world with its cultures and customs. It means going against the grain of society, just as Jesus did. It means demonstrating integrity by making a choice and sticking with it.
Jesus’ brother James warned that a man who doubts “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (James 1: 7-8 NIV).”
In the face of such admonition, a Christian understands that to follow Jesus, it must be all or nothing.
As a result, the maturing process of a Christian involves gradually stripping away anything from one’s life that hinders spiritual progress and growth. Our path becomes narrower, and our focus more intense as we press on toward our ultimate goal.
This focusing, unfortunately, can easily result in a misperception by those outside the church.
Because they are not walking the same path, they do not understand that it is necessary for Christians to be “narrow-minded” to stay on the narrow path that God has laid out for them. The more focused a Christian is on that narrow path, the less significant anything NOT on that path becomes.
Some misinterpret this as a lack of concern for others. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Note that James also wrote,
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27 NIV).”
In other words, having a righteous intolerance for sin not only allows for being loving and tolerant of people. It requires it!
What Christians are intolerant of is the suggestion that there is any other way to God besides Jesus. The reason for this is that God himself is intolerant of any rivalry or unfaithfulness from His people.
Taken in this context, the assertion that Christians are narrow-minded is technically accurate, but not in a negative way. It is simply the natural consequence of acknowledging Jesus as the Lord of our lives, submitting to His authority, and following His leading along the proverbial “straight and narrow path.”
As long as the church recognizes Jesus as Lord, remaining in submission to our jealous God, then we also remain justified in being intolerant of any rival ideology that our culture would nominate to remove God from His rightful place in our lives.
(Thanks for reading. More coming next week. Hope to see you back here! Tag the Free Newsletter link to make sure you don’t miss anything!)