From the May 27 sermon “Progressive in Thyatira: More Tolerant than God,” preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll out of Revelation 2:18–29:
Jesus’ words to the church in Thyatira include some commendation for their actions, but lengthy correction of their doctrine. They were sinfully more tolerant than God—which is still a temptation for us today. What should Christian tolerance look like in culture, community, and the church? Christianity begins with tolerance and moves to repentance and change. If we repent of our sin (incl. sexual immorality and sinful tolerance), we will be rewarded. If we do not, there will be justice in judgment.
Let’s Talk about Christian Tolerance
So let’s talk about Christian tolerance. What is it? What is it not?
How about legal tolerance in culture? Should we practice legal tolerance in culture? Meaning, we believe Muslims have the right to worship, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, Baha’is, atheists, agnostics, they’re welcome to their belief, Scientology—as goofy as it is, you know—it’s okay. It’s not that we agree with it, but that we’ll tolerate it.
Should we have legal tolerance of other views, other religions, other ideologies, other perspectives? Yes.
Yes, we should, because Christianity is not a religion, not a belief system that is imposed. It’s about loving Jesus Christ. You can’t simply pass a law that says everybody love Jesus. It doesn’t work like that.
So, we don’t impose Christian faith, but we propose Christian faith.
“We’d like to talk to you about Jesus. He loves you. We want you to love him.” So we don’t think that we can in any way impose faith by making Christianity the legal religion, and then making other beliefs illegal.
So if somebody comes along saying, “Do you tolerate other religions?” Say, “I defend the right of religions, ideologies, spiritualities, and perspectives that I disagree with because I believe in a marketplace of ideas, you throw Christianity in the mix, and the truth always wins, and it is the one that will prevail. But I’m not afraid of other beliefs. And I’m not going to make illegal other beliefs.” So yes, we will tolerate, and we do tolerate.
Mental Conviction to Emotional Confliction
Christianity starts with tolerance, come as you are, and then Jesus says, “I’m going to change you.” And if we never call people to repentance, if we never say, “The way you’re thinking is wrong, the way you’re acting is wrong, the lifestyle you’ve chosen, the identity you’ve embraced, the actions that you celebrate are ones you should be mourning,” then we’re no longer Christians. We’re no longer faithful. [. . .]
For some of you, this makes sense, but emotionally it gets tested when someone you love goes astray. Right?
So, you can hear me preach with conviction in my voice, and a Bible in my hand, and say, “That sounds right. We need to hold the line. The truth is the truth. Jesus is Lord. People need to repent. That starts with me. I’m not perfect. I need him first. And then I can humbly proclaim him to others. That makes sense to me.”
And then your child comes home and says they want to explore their sexuality.
Your grandchild comes home and says they want to choose to explore an alternate sexual identity.
Your mom or your dad decide they want to try a new form of spirituality that’s kind of Christian, kind of not.
Your spouse decides they want to start going to a church that doesn’t talk about sin, repentance, and Jesus, but maybe everything and anything but that.
The person in your Community Group that you really care for, and maybe they’ve loved you, or served you, or helped you, they go astray.
What they’re believing is not biblical. How they’re behaving is not ethical.
And all of sudden what moves from a mental conviction becomes an emotional confliction. You’re like, “Oh, man. Are they not a Christian? Are they going to hell? Are they wrong? When I talk to them about it they smile, they say they’re happier than they’ve ever been. They say they love me and it’s working. Maybe they even say they feel closer to Jesus than ever.”
This is where we need to humbly hold the line. Humbly tell the truth. Humbly love and serve well.
The Church Belongs to Jesus
Here’s the point: the church belongs to Jesus. Jesus is the one who has the right to say whether you and I, individually and collectively, are being obedient or disobedient. Whether our belief is orthodox or it is heretical. We all give an account to Jesus, and the church belongs to him. It’s Jesus’ church.
The church in Thyatira, Jesus’ church. Mars Hill Church and all of our fourteen churches, Jesus’ church. Doesn’t belong to you, doesn’t belong to me, doesn’t belong to us, doesn’t matter what we think, how we feel, or what we vote, it matters what he says. It’s his church and he looks at the church and he says, “I want to give you commendation and correction.”