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THE TOLERANT CHRISTIAN
Intro: Beginning with Romans chapter 13, Paul has been talking about we should relate to the believers around us. We have learned that, as believers, we are to love one another, help one another and accept one another. This section serves as the climax of those thoughts. Here, we learn that we are to have a spirit of toleration toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.
You see, I don’t know whether you have noticed it or not, but we are all different. We are here from different places, with different backgrounds and different types of upbringing. If we aren’t careful, we can allow the differences we have become a problem in the fellowship. We can look at a brother or sister who has some different ideas that we do and we can conclude that we just won’t fellowship with them because they are just plain weird. However, it is our differences that make the church possible. If we were all the same, this would be a dull and boring place, but the fact that we are different allows the church to be a place where unique personalities meet and produce a dynamic that can be found no where else in the world.
Take a band for instance. In that band there are all types of instruments, they sound different, they look different and they are all played differently. You also have all types of musicians, who have all kinds of playing habits. Yet, when all of this comes together, and all follow the leader and stay together, they can produce some beautiful music.
This is the Lord’s desire for His church. When we allow the Spirit of the Lord to operate in the church, we will love, respect and tolerate one another and produce a symphony of harmony that the world cannot duplicate. When we all love the Lord, as we should. When He is allowed to lead, as He should. There will be peace, harmony and power in the church!
There is a lot of talk in the world today about tolerance. They mean that we are to affirm other people regardless of what they do in life. For instance, if a person is openly homosexual, then the rest of the world is supposed to honor that person and encourage their lifestyle. That is what the world means by tolerance. Well, friends, there are some things that we just can’t tolerate! What I am preaching this evening is an attitude within the church that accepts the personal differences of our brother or sister in Christ. An attitude that loves them just like they are, even when we disagree, or even when they are wrong! We might not be able to support their view, but we can still practice love for them! That is the theme of this passage.
Let’s take a few minutes this evening to look into these seven verses and discuss The Tolerant Christian. This is important stuff, since it will teach us how to live one with another!
I. v. 1-2 THE DUTY OF TOLERANCE
(Ill. Paul begins verse 1 by taking us back to what we have already learned about this matter. Paul has been talking about the weaker brother. That brother who needs rules to keep him straight. That brother who likes to point the finger at what other brothers are doing. Paul has been drawing a contrast between the believer who is mature in Jesus and understands his liberty in Christ and the believer who has not reached that level of maturity and does not feel free to live in liberty. He tells the stronger brother that he “ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” The word “ought introduces a condition of obligation. It tells us that we have a duty to our brothers in Jesus. This duty can be carried out effectively if we will practice two methods of life. If we are going to help our brother grow in the Lord, then we are going to have to do what Paul tells us in these first two verses.)
A. v. 1 Live A Crucified Life We are told to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not
to please ourselves. The word “bear is of the utmost importance. It is the same word used in John 19:17, where the Bible speaks of Jesus bearing his cross. It is also used in Gal. 6:2, where we are commanded to bear the burdens of our brother. The whole idea here is one of self-denial and self-sacrifice. When Jesus went to the cross, He laid aside His rights for us. He denied Himself, suffered in our place and bore our infirmities on the cross. He set the standard that we are all called upon to follow. One of the problems of our day, both in the world and in the church, is that most people are so self-centered and so interested in pleasing themselves that they cannot see the needs of others. This verse is a call for us to get our eyes off ourselves and to get them onto those around us so that we can reach our to them in the love of God and make a difference in their lives!
In other words, when the church operates as it should, there will be times when you will voluntarily lay aside you personal rights and privileges for the sake of others who may be weaker in the faith than you are. There will be times when you will deny self so that the church as a whole may prosper. That is Christ likeness in action! That is a crucified life!
B. v. 2 Live A Constructive Life Now, Paul moves deeper in his thinking to tell us that
we are please our neighbor. Now, Paul is not saying that we should try to live to please everybody. If you do that you will soon learn that it is just not possible to please everybody! He is not teaching that we should compromise our standards just to make someone happy wither. He is not advocating a please everyone at any cost mentality. That is dangerous and that is wrong!
Paul is saying that we are to live the kind of lives that build others up in the Lord. We are to so live that when we meet them in Heaven they will say to us, “Thank you for living right in front of me. The kind of life we live in the presence of others either has the power to build up or to tear down. Ultimately, every Christian is either in the construction business or the demolition business. Paul is saying that we should live the kind of lives that help others grow in the Lord and that do not hold them back. If that means giving up a few rights along the way, so be it! If that means that I have to deny myself along the way, then so be it. If it helps my brother to grow stronger in the Lord, then I am to live to please him. We are to be like Jesus Christ, in that we live lives that build others up, instead of tearing others down, Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 10:23; 1 Thes. 5:11.
II. v. 3-4 THE DEMONSTRATION OF TOLERANCE
A. v. 3 The Example Of Our Savior If you are wondering how you can do this, or where
you can look for an example of this kind of living, then look no further than Jesus Christ. Paul says that He is our supreme example of a person who lived His life for the good of others. In all that He did, Jesus is our example, 1 Pet. 2:21. He sets the standard that we are to follow as we go through life. Think of all that Jesus went through to provide salvation for you and me. He left Heaven, Phil. 2:5-8. He suffered poverty, Matt. 8:20. He was reproached, hated, and rejected by those He came to save, John 1:11; Isa. 53:1-12. Even His own family refused to believe in Him, John 7:2-5. Ultimately, He was nailed to a cross and there He died for a people who hated Him, so that they might live!
For us the lesson is clear! We are to be like Jesus! Even if we are laughed at we are to serve others. Even if we are ridiculed and reproached, we are to serve others. Even if we are hated and misunderstood, we are to serve others for the glory of God. That is what Jesus did! He lived His life to please the Father, John 4:34; John 8:29. As a result, He was able to give His life for the world. When we live to please the Lord and do His will, we will have achieved the goal of being, like Jesus, a living sacrifice, Rom. 12:1-2.
B. v. 4 The Encouragement Of The Scriptures The idea of this verse is that when we
go through this life serving the Lord, there will be times of discouragement and defeat. In those times, we need to learn to look to the Word of God. It is there that we will find the encouragement we will need to continue on for the glory of the Lord. Again, we can look to Jesus as our example. When He was tempted, He used the Word of God, Matt. 4:1-11. When He was on the cross, He quoted the Scriptures three times, Matt. 27:46; John 19:28; Luke 23:46. This shows us that in the difficult times of His life, Jesus used the Word of God for His Own comfort and strength. If He did, how much more do we need that kind of help? Therefore, the believer must be well acquainted with the Bible. When the difficult days come, and they will! You can run to the Word of God and find help and strength to make it through those valleys. No one ever said that the Christian life was an easy life. However, it is not an impossible life! When a believer lives for the Lord, there will be times when we feel like throwing in the towel, but the Word of God will enable us to continue on for the glory of God. By the way, when you don’t spend time in the Word, it will show on you! You will get critical. You will become mean spirited. You will become intolerant of others and hard to get along with.
III. v. 5-7 THE DELIGHT OF TOLERANCE
(In these closing verses, Paul uses a word four times. This one word is the secret of a great church. It is what makes a church a powerful church for the glory of the Lord. A church is not great because of its buildings. It is not great because of the number of people that attend. It is not great because of the amount of money it has in the bank. It isn’t great singing or great preaching that makes a great church. The secret of a great church is found in the little word “one. What makes a great church is “unity. When we come to the place where we can love one another in spite of our differences, when we can accept one another in spite of our disagreements, when we can worship together in spite of our personal opinions, then we are on the way to becoming a great church! This kind of unity is accomplished through the practice of tolerance as taught in these verses. There is a payoff for being like Jesus. These verses tell us that that payoff is threefold.)
A. v. 5 Produces A Unity Of Purpose This verse tells us that we are to be
likeminded.” That is, we are to be one in purpose. This was the secret of the early church. They grew by leaps and bounds because they possessed one common goal: see men come to faith in Jesus Christ. Over and over in the book of Acts, you read the phrase “in one accord. They were likeminded. They wanted to see people saved and that was their supreme goal as a church. Everything they did revolved around bringing men to faith in Jesus Christ. I am convinced that that is solution to every problem any church has! When we can come together around the goal and purpose of getting the Gospel out to as many people as possible, the Lord will bless that! When the church stops arguing over the color of the carpet, what kind of hymnal we use, who did or did not clean up this or that, and get our focus back on the primary task of the church, that of winning souls, we will see the Lord bless. After all, Paul tells us to do this “according to Christ Jesus. Why did He come to this world? He came to die on the cross, Luke 19:10; John 18:37; Phil. 2:5-8. He came to see sinners saved. Man, the church needs to rediscover that burden! If we can nail it down here at Gilead that our sole purpose for existing, other than the worship of God, is the get out the Gospel, it will revolutionize this church! We look at out empty altars and ask “Why aren’t people being saved? I ask you this, When was the last time you told someone about Jesus? When was the last time you Sunday School teachers asked your class about their salvation? When was the last time you talked to someone about their soul? God help us to rediscover the importance of telling people about a saving Lord!
B. v. 6 Produces A Unity Of Praise Paul tells us that when we rediscover the essential
ministry of winning men to Jesus, it produce an atmosphere of praise and worship in the church. One of the problems In the modern church is that we are always trying to cook up some excitement. Trying to get something worked up so we can leave and talk about what a good worship service we had today. Well, let me tell you that when we get our minds and our mouths united in the same purpose, we won’t have to work it up, but we will have to find a way to calm it down. Let me explain. For instance, with our mouths we sing, “I love To Tell The Story, but in our minds we are thinking, There is no way that I am going out there to tell someone about Jesus. There is an inconsistency in our worship that needs to be worked out if we will enjoy the Lord’s power in the church. You see, we gather in the church to worship and be equipped by the preaching of the Word of God so that we might leave the building and go into the world to serve the Lord. It is a great thing to come in here to worship, but it is equally great when we leave the church to serve. As we get busy for the Lord and tell the world about His saving grace, we will see souls saved! As we see souls saved, there will be an infectious excitement in the church. There is a verse in Hebrews that tells the story better than I can. Look at Hebrews 2:12. This verse tells us that when the church gets her mind and her mouth together in a unity of purpose and praise, people will be saved. When people are saved, the Lord Jesus Himself will show up and lead the anthems of praise to the Father. In other words, the Lord Himself will be pleased to be in the midst of His church and will fill this place with excitement and enthusiasm!
C. v. 7 Produces A Unity Of Practice When we are operating as we should be as a
church, we will be quick to accept one another as we are. We will love each other in spite of our differences. We will learn to look at one another as the Lord did when He saved our souls. When we came to Jesus by faith, He accepted us just like we were. He loved us and saved us by His grace and welcomed us into the family of God. It should be the same way in the church. We are to love one another, receive one another and accept one another just like Jesus did us! There will be love in the house of God and love like that is contagious! People will hear about it and run to it, because is it truly lacking in the world around us!
By the way, this same acceptance flows over into the realm of outreach as well. When we are walking, as we should be, a man’s past, or his present condition, will have no bearing on whether or not we share the Gospel with him. There will be a desire to see people saved, and to get them in the church. They may not look right when they get here. They may not know our language, how to dress, how to act in church, but if we can get them to Jesus, and He saves their souls, He will change them and make them like He wants them. And, if He is happy with them, then we should be too!
Conc: So, do you have a problem accepting others just like they are? When they are different from you, you have an obligation to love them and to reach out to them with a Christlike love and compassion. May God help us as a church to realize that glorifying God, getting men to Jesus and growing my brother in Christ is the most important activity that I can engage in as a believer. Nothing is more honoring to the Lord than these things. May they take their rightful place as the head of our priorities! If there are issues in your life that have been exposed this evening, I challenge you to get to this altar and use it to get those things settled with Jesus. If you really have a burden for this church and for its future, I challenge you to get in this altar and pray that the Lord will burden some of His people to be soul winners! It is the only hope we have!