The Destructive Effects of the Wrong Kind of Tolerance

August 09, 2016

""Tolerance"" is the huge, politically correct buzzword today. We are admonished by the world to be tolerant of everyone and everything. The worst kinds of sin are paraded before us. If believers dare raise an objection we are branded as intolerant--in the world's eyes this is the harshest judgment.

But the Bible gives a contrasting message. To be tolerant of sin in a fellow believer is not only not good, but destructive to him. 1 Corinthians 5 is a case study.


The church in Corinth had a man who professed to be a believer but he was committing adultery with his stepmother. The church was not mourning over this sin, but tolerating it in the name of love and not lovingly, but strongly confronting the man. 

Paul reminds them that they are not helping the man, nor the kingdom of God. The man would interpret their silence as agreement. It is the worst lack of love to see a brother going down in quicksand, and not be loving enough to throw him a rope!

Also, a ""little leaven will leaven the whole lump of dough,"" Paul said (1 Cor. 5:6). In other words, if you let this go, it will become the new standard for your church and more and more sin will enter the church. 

And also, if you continue this tolerance of evil, it will erode the church in ways that destroy the reputation of God to a watching world. We eventually have no distinct difference to show the world that God can change their lives and set them free from sin.

This man, Paul said, should be confronted--graciously, humbly, lovingly and Biblically--about his sin and called to repentance. This type of tolerance is not helping him. So Paul said they were to confront the man, even to the point of withdrawing fellowship from him as Jesus instructed in Matthew 18, in hopes that the loss of true fellowship would bring him to his senses. 

I did a study with 90 men years ago of the issue of church restoration/discipline, i.e., how do you help a brother who falls into sin. We discovered to our amazement that it was in EVERY SINGLE book of the New Testament in some fashion. There are many clear instructions about why, when, how to confront a sinning brother.

This purpose of this confrontation is 3-fold: 

  1. For the glory and reputation of God,
  2. For the purity of the church, to help her be all she should be in a ""crooked and perverse generation.” When you confront one brother, it not only helps him, but “straightens the spine” of every other man in the body, and,
  3. For the restoration of the believer.


The interesting thing is, they listened to Paul's counsel and did what he instructed … and the man repented! In fact, part of the reason Paul writes the second letter to the Corinthians was to tell them how to restore this repentant man back to fellowship. Paul's thinking was that a true Christian, when confronted with his sin, will repent. If not, after repeated attempts, it will be illustrated that he is not a believer at all, and, you have communicated to the world that true believers do not live in continual, unrepentant sin.

Again, in this passage he is NOT saying that we shouldn't associate with immoral lost people (see verses 9-13). nor that we do not all struggle with sin. But that we should love believing brothers and sisters enough to help them out of the quicksand of sin through loving confrontation.

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