Christian truths, values, teachings and practices have often been criticised as intolerant by both non-Christians and people within Christian circles.
The first article in this series looked at how Christians and the God of the Bible are naturally intolerant of sin. In the second article, it was argued that there is great versatility in Christian tolerance due to the foundational belief that humanity is made in the image of God.
Does God contradict himself? How can Christians follow a God who is intolerant of sin yet claims to be loving?
The God of perfect justice
There are many different understandings and facets of justice in our world. For some, justice is all about fairness when it comes to the outcome of situations. An example is the many social justice causes that promote income equality (whether by social-economic class, gender, occupation or ethnic background).
For others, justice is about consequences of actions based on a set of values. This looks at punishment for wrongdoing and depending on which legal system is used, will either presume guilt or presume innocence.
Ultimately, all types of justice and law are formed from a set of values that a society or culture may hold. For example, in India or Dubai, kissing in public can get tourists fined or be sentenced to jail.
In the Bible, God defines justice and creates it through His set of values based on His character. The Mosaic law described in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy covers many aspects of defining morality and societal norms for Israel. These laws from God would be the standard by which God will judge humanity after death (Hebrews chapter 9, verse 27) and allows us to know what sin is (Romans chapter 3, verse 20).
The Bible is clear that the consequence of sin is death (Romans chapter 6, verse 23). Perfect justice therefore demands that God punishes sin. If He does not punish, He would not be perfectly just.
The God of perfect mercy
Another characteristic of God is that He is a God of perfect mercy. It is not something that is exclusive to the New Testament. In the Mosaic law, there are elements of mercy that God gave to His people, such as the Year of Jubilee. On the 50th year the people of Israel are to perform many great acts of mercy for each other (such as forgiveness of debt, property rights redemption) symbolic of God’s graces on His people (Leviticus chapter 25).
In the Mosaic Law, there is also a sacrificial system administered by priests through which the people of Israel can receive forgiveness. In the simplest terms, an animal (that is perfect) would be sacrificed to pay for sins.
Whilst there are provisions of mercy and grace in the Mosaic law, what is the deal with Christians saying how God is a God of love and grace? It comes across as legalistic and not something to be excited about or to teach us much about tolerance.
The God of perfect tolerance
The answer lies with the role that Jesus plays within the Mosaic law to redeem mankind from sin. Jesus’ death fulfilled the role of the perfect sacrificial lamb for everyone, thereby fulfilling God’s Law (Romans chapter 8, verses 3-4) by taking our punishment upon himself.
The Bible talks of Jesus being fully man and fully God, living a perfect life and not deserving any death or punishment. Because he was fully God, his sacrifice is sufficient to pay the penalty for all mankind.
If God was not a God of love, He did not have to exercise mercy. This undeserving act where God fully pays for our sin displays both His perfect justice and perfect mercy. This is why Christians keep talking about how God is a God of love, grace and mercy. In their excitement, they sometimes forget that He is also a God of justice.
Tolerance and listening go hand in hand
Our modern democracy (Greek in its origin) allows for the freedom of expression and opinion in policies and their impact. Each participant has opportunity to voice and explain their concerns or propose a solution to solve societal issues.
God, through the Bible (when studied and read in its entirety) has given us a foundational set of values which throughout history, has contributed positively to society.
As Christians genuinely believe that living God’s way is best, it means they will voice their beliefs to be heard by society and have them voted on. Where they can come across as intolerant ultimately stems from a difference in foundation for morality.
Finally, we need to recognise the importance of conversation and debate and hearing each side out to inform how we should vote to have a functioning democracy. This means that hard topics, questions and statements may be said in discussion.
It is important that our reaction to them is not one of silencing the opposition or resorting to name calling. Doing so ultimately goes against the idea of living in a tolerant society if we choose to not listen to each other.
Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at
Brandon Tsang is a Sydney-based writer currently working in IT. He studied Marketing and Economics at UNSW and loves to spend his spare time hiking, playing volleyball or watching Netflix.
Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brandon-tsang.html