One of the popular concepts gouging its way through society today is the notion of "tolerance." While our nation was founded upon such principles as religious and political tolerance, it is moving rapidly toward labeling many formerly taboo subjects as "tolerable."
We needn't look far to find examples of this. If we read a newspaper or watch television, we are constantly deluged with evil ideas. We are told that fornication (a word we don't hear much any more) is okay. We're also told that abortion is a proper and necessary thing in family planning and population control. Many people are also informing us that homosexuality is a natural thing and should be labeled as merely an alternate lifestyle. If anyone stands up and opposes these things, that person is labeled as intolerant, close-minded, and a hate-monger. Add to this the ever-growing diet of profanity, nudity, violence, and immorality in our entertainment, and we see ourselves nearly overwhelmed by worldly concepts. Even our own government has allied itself with these forces, so that high-ranking officials tell us we must learn to tolerate and accept these.
What is the danger for us? Will we suddenly decide that we really have been close minded and immediately accept these behaviors and practices? Most likely not. The vast majority of Christians will not turn away from godliness overnight. There is a very real and present danger for us, though. Our principles can begin to erode from the constant, steady pressure of society. We run a high risk of becoming desensitized to evil things, to the point that we are not bothered by them as much as we should be.
Are we already desensitized to worldly things? Have the sharp edges of our conscience been blunted by the flood of godlessness we are exposed to? Do we find ourselves increasingly tolerant of worldly things in our movies, TV, or music? Does profanity set us on edge, or does it flow through our ears with no resistance on our part? Do we try to avoid scenes of fornication and nudity, or do we calmly sit and allow them to fill our mind? Have our views on divorce, abortion, or other "social issues" been diluted with elements of modern thought? Most importantly, if we see ourselves as slowly drifting one way or the other, which way would it be?
God has given us some principles on how to fight the erosion of our conscience, as well as how to sharpen its worn edges.
First, we can guard our minds against the flood of worldly thoughts, ideas, and images that swirl around us. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon writes "Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." We can protect ourselves against much of the evil flood by simply refusing to watch and listen to things which would fill our minds with worldly ideas. If we do not give sin a chance to enter our heart, it will not be able to dull our conscience. There are many movies and TV programs that Christians simply shouldn't see. Proverbs 14:16 warns us about letting our guard down when it says, "A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident." It is foolish to feel confident in our own strength and allow evil its place in us, but we are wise if we realize its power and stay away from it.
Second, we can learn to have the same mind as Christ did. This basic principle, given in Philippians 2:5, tells us to think in the same way as our Lord did. We have no better role model than he, so we must study his attitude toward worldliness and imitate it. We can see the principles he lived by in passages such as Matthew 15:18-20. Jesus says there that our deeds originate from the heart. Evil things are done because the ideas were in the heart to begin with. We must choose which master we shall serve (Matt. 6:24) and keep out the other. Which movies would Jesus watch? Which movies would he avoid watching? Would the Lord allow society to influence his convictions in any possible way? If he lived in our time, would there be any differences in what he would tolerate? We must have the same mind as he.
Finally, we must fill our minds with things that will sharpen our conscience. Philippians 4:8 describes the kinds of things we should fill our minds with (things that are true, noble, just, pure, praiseworthy, etc.). If we fill our minds with godly things, we will develop a conscience that can discriminate properly toward what is tolerable and intolerable. Unfortunately, conscience-honing thoughts and images are increasingly rare. Nevertheless, they exist and can be found if we make any real effort. The richest source is obviously God's Word. But if we do not actively fill our minds with it, we shall fail against the erosive storms.
By following these principles, we can fight the moral rot that exists in our society. We can remain sensitive toward that which is evil, and avoid the noxious cloud of the "new tolerance" which threatens our souls.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 21, p. 9