Summary: Last week's sermon was on acceptance. So with a follow-up sermon on tolerance you might be wondering if it's going to be redundant. Though it's common to use the words interchangeably, they are different for a reason.
Last week's sermon was on acceptance. So with a follow-up sermon on tolerance you might be wondering if it's going to be redundant. Though the words accept and tolerate are often used interchangeably there are times when they're not. You've heard the phrase, "I'm building up a tolerance to it", but have you ever heard someone say, "I'm building up an acceptance to it"?
Am I just splitting hairs? No. Though it might be common for us to use the words interchangeably, they are different for a reason. The difference is seen in the bible. In the NIV, accept is found far more frequently than tolerate is (149 to 8). Although tolerate is used only 8 times, it's worth looking at.
Hopefully you'll be able to tolerate this sermon.
1) Tolerating God's tolerance.
Hab. 1:2-4, "How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."
The Hebrew for tolerate here carries the idea of looking upon or watching something. So, Habakkuk's complaint is wondering how the Lord can continue to watch the evil that's going on and not do something about it.
Have you ever felt this way? We look around at the world and wonder why God allows evil to continue and ask why the righteous suffer and the wicked look like they're living carefree lives. That's a legitimate concern and we've seen places in scripture that highlight that.
Although what Habakkuk writes here can definitely apply to the ungodliness we see in the world as a whole, he's not talking about those who don't know God, he's referring to his fellow Jews-God's chosen ones. Habakkuk is frustrated at the injustices that are happening and the conflict and strife that existed with the ones who had the word of God.
At the time, Judah was ruled by King Jehoiakim who was cruel and corrupt. Therefore, the law was paralyzed because it wasn't being honored. Those who had been overtaken by wickedness are causing problems for the righteous ones.
Habakkuk looks around at all the evil his fellow Jews are committing and wonders why the Lord is letting them get away with it. Habakkuk is saying, "God, why are you allowing those who have turned away from you to have power over the ones who are true to you?"
To put it in perspective, it would be like us looking around at all the evil that Christians are doing and wondering why God would allow it. "Why are you tolerating your own people behaving this way and giving you a bad name? Why do you tolerate the so-called Christians who are full of hatred and bitterness toward people? Why do you allow the prideful and arrogant to go on misrepresenting you?"
Have you ever wondered this before? You see the ones with a high profile who have tarnished the name of God because of their sins; whether it be lust, greed, or manipulation. How many movies or shows have you seen where the characters who are connected to God in some way are represented in a negative way?
The Christian on the show is a flighty, holy-roller who everyone mocks or avoids. The serial killer leaves bible verses at the crime scene and says he is doing God's work. So people walk away with thinking anyone who loves the Lord or carries a bible is a laughable whack-job.
And part of the reason for these labels is due to those who have not represented God well. Whether it's the cult leader, flashy TV evangelist/faith healer or the overbearing but well-intentioned Christian at the PTA meeting, there have been plenty of people that have not done a very good job at representing the true Jesus.
Why does God tolerate these people? But then I have to ask, what about me? In what ways have I distorted the image of Jesus? I might not be on TV influencing thousands of people but I'm still guilty. We should wonder why God tolerates what we do. And then be very thankful that he does. God has every right to come down on me pretty hard, but he doesn't. It's easy to accept God's tolerance of us yet feel differently when he's tolerant of others.
That's not to say it's wrong to wonder why God continues to tolerate what's going on in the world. Habakkuk had a heart for God and was upset over what he was seeing. Not that Habakkuk thought he was perfect, he just couldn't understand how a holy God allowed unholy behavior among his people to go on, seemingly unchecked.