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Our Good Crisis #8: Tolerance and Mercy

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

I’ve been reading Dodson’s book, Our Good Crisis, slowly, thinking and processing each of the Beatitudes. Dodson has challenged my thinking and I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore ideas that I haven’t considered deeply before. The latest challenge comes with this beatitude on mercy – that mercy and tolerance are not the same.

Tolerance is putting up with something
often to get along better with others.

Dodson defines tolerance as overlooking a wrong or “winking” at the immoral. I define tolerance a bit differently. Tolerance is appropriate and by that I do not mean we agree with sin. Instead, I see tolerance as accepting the fact that others are not yet living in grace, and that they are, then, under God’s final judgment, not mine. Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (John 12:47-48).

We live in a fallen world. We should not expect those who do not know Christ to live according to His grace – they haven’t experienced it yet. So we tolerate lifestyles different from ours, even respect their decisions, expertise, and contributions to society. We work alongside unbelievers to help our society flourish. We defend their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we defend our own.

Defending the religious freedom of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs does not compromise our commitment to the exclusive truth claims of Jesus Christ. It’s because we believe that Jesus is the rightful King of all that we protect the freedom of all.

Rebecca McLaughlin

We practice tolerance. That does not mean we deny the gospel. Our being kind, wanting all to flourish is not a threat to the gospel! The gospel is good news of the accomplished work of Christ. It’s done! There is no threat to the good news itself! Instead, our unkindness and selfishness are threats to others understanding and being drawn to the gospel!

Mercy takes one giant step past the concept of tolerance … to forgiveness!

Mercy is withholding punishment that is rightly deserved.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful;
he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
He does not always accuse,
and does not stay angry.
He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.

Psalm 103:8-10 NET

One innate attribute of our God is mercy. He is compassionate towards us.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was evil continually. Yet He persisted in His plan of redemption. This is mercy.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He accomplished the work of redemption on our behalf before we acknowledged Him. This is mercy.

When we forgive others – those that have wronged us; those who by the world’s standards we could treat harshly, this is mercy.

When we forgive as we have been forgiven, this is mercy.

It’s when we become so self-satisfied with our personal holiness that we mistakenly believe we don’t need mercy.

We act out an essential result of the gospel when we demonstrate mercy to others. We are changed by the gospel. We are sanctified by the gospel. It’s in believing the gospel more and more each day that we grow up in Him, that we are overwhelmed by His outpouring of mercy to us. In gratitude and deep understanding of the forgiveness we have received, that we are able to show mercy to all – even to our enemies!

We are flattened by God’s just gaze at our sinful failure
but lifted up by his deep, sacrificial mercy.
We are inspired to be generous, sacrificial and active in mercy —
to be slow to judge, quick to give the benefit of the doubt,
and eager to act on behalf of others.

Jonathan Dodson, Our Good Crisis, p. 108

In the end, I agree with Dodson. We are inspired to act on the behalf of others for the flourishing of society – slow to judge, quick to be kind and generous!

Father, may I be so overcome by your great mercy in my life that it flows easily to others. May I not hoard it, bottle it up, distribute it with an eye dropper. Instead let it spill over freely in great measure! And may that mercy overflowing always point back to You as the only source of goodness and forgiveness.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Savior,
there is healing in his blood.

But we make God’s love too narrow
by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind,
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

If our love were but more simple,
we should rest upon God’s word,
and our lives would be illumined
by the presence of our Lord.

Frederick W. Faber, 1862

Dodson, J. K. (2020). Our good crisis: Overcoming moral chaos with the Beatitudes. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, an imprint of InterVarsity Press.

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