Several years ago a news program held a discussion concerning the culture and language found in the United States. The participants brought out the fact that as late as the 1960’s vulgar language was not heard on television, in movies, books, or in public. However today, it seems that everywhere we turn, profanity has become the norm. One high school basketball coach in the interview, said that he had zero tolerance for profanity, and if any player were caught using it, he would be immediately thrown out of the game.
It is amazing that more and more we are hearing the idea of Zero Tolerance being applied in many areas of our lives. Our schools have a zero tolerance policy towards guns, knifes, or any other type of weapon. The same is true of illegal drugs, and so-called hate crimes. There are many areas in which we should mandate zero tolerance, but all too often it is in the wrong place, or not at all. Many times we will tolerate something to a point, allowing a person to get by with it once or twice, and then if it happens a third or fourth time then punishment will ensue. But zero tolerance should mean that there is no leeway, it means that punishment will be brought immediately upon the infraction. Zero tolerance is the refusal to tolerate or allow something; not allowing one bit of deviation from a standard.
While we should all hold zero tolerance for profanity, illegal drugs, and hate, there are areas where zero tolerance should and should not be the norm.
In doctrine: Zero tolerance must be the name of the game when it comes to doctrine. After all, if we are to follow the example of our Lord, then we can not allow a deviation from the one true standard—the Bible. Jesus did not tolerate the Jewish religious leaders of His day. He told them to their face, in public, before a crowd, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Then in chapter 23 of Matthew, Jesus continues to rebuke them for their hypocrisy, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…” (vs. 13-16, 23, 25, 29). Jesus the Christ, our perfect example of zero tolerance when it came to no deviation from the true standard—revealed the false doctrine to all. He never worried about winning friends or influencing people. He came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).
Everyone should hold a zero tolerance for false doctrine. Against any doctrine that divides men unto different religious groups (1 Cor. 1:10). Against any doctrine that allows divorce for any reason (Matt. 19:9). Against any doctrine that teaches baptism is not essential to salvation (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Against any doctrine that allows titles such as “father, reverend, pastor, etc.” (Matt. 23:8-12). Against any doctrine that teaches miracles, tongue speaking, etc. are still given today (Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 13:8-10).
Not when voicing opinion: Far too many people get hot under the collar when voicing their opinion – as if theirs was the only way, or the only authority in the matter. Opinion is just that—an opinion, and like noses, everybody has one. Opinion is defined as “a belief stronger than an impression, but less than knowledge, a judgment, a view.” Opinion often comes into play when choosing floor coverings, wall colors, automobile preference, best professional sports team or player, etc. Such things should never cause us to become so adamant that we turn to blows, cause divisions, or break up friendships. The Scriptures speak of our behavior based upon our opinion whether Christian or not. Keeping in mind that everyone will be judged from the Scriptures as to how well we kept them, Paul says, “look not every man to his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). In the verse prior he said, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Also; “let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good” (1 Cor. 10:24).
There are many such principles as these that apply to the situation of opinion. If we were all to willingly surrender our will to the will of others rather than holding zero tolerance, then possibly there would be much less strive.
Not when discussing the Bible: Just like opinions, many people hold zero tolerance for any one that wants to study the Bible with them—especially those who claim to be Christians. When we look at the example of those in the first century who obeyed the gospel and became God’s chosen, we are told that they, “continued stedfastly in the apostles teaching and fellowship…” (Acts 2:42). Their joy in being saved caused them to study the scriptures together. The Psalmist said, “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts” (Psa. 119:63). Paul said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Why do some so-called “Christians” hold a zero tolerance toward other Christians who want to study the Scriptures together? Christians are commanded to be “of one mind, of one accord” (Phil. 2:2). How else can they discover if they are of one mind and one accord, if they do not study together? I’m sure that everyone has friends or family who will not study the Scriptures with you because they either don’t want to know the truth, or are afraid that you are trying to convert them to your way of thinking—I know I do. And it is truly upsetting that they will not tolerate my bringing up the possibility of studying the Bible to see what the truth is. After all the truth is objective, not subjective. And logically it is impossible for two differing beliefs to be correct. Either both are wrong, or one is wrong and the other right. Everyone understands that the teacher who has zero tolerance for a student who says 2 plus 2 equals 5, because the answer is wrong. But when it comes to spiritual matters, then any answer is correct. There is no right or wrong.
Zero Tolerance—should be applied in a balanced way in every area of our lives. We must tolerate the opinions of others, but we must never tolerate false doctrine. We must never tolerate man’s inhumanity to man, but we must tolerate anything that does not violate God’s laws (Acts 5:29). Zero Tolerance—which side of the fence do you sit?