“You do you.”
“It’s your life!”
“Live your truth.”
I went through a phase of life where I said these things in one way or another. I went from a borderline legalistic Christian to a moral relativist. I was quick to change the traditional definition of tolerance to the currently popular redefinition of tolerance that mores so resembles affirmation than true tolerance. I thought loving people who believed differently than I did meant also championing their lifestyle regardless of how ultimately destructive it actually was.
Despite how kind it might seem, there’s nothing loving about relativism. It is a cowardly dance around objective truth. In fact, it’s rejection of objective truth for subjective, individualistic “truth.” It is rejection of God and His word. We can’t hold tightly to the Bible and to an affirming definition of tolerance. The two do not coincide. We must choose God and His sometimes difficult Truth or choose relativism. We cannot have both.
This is the crossroads I found myself at about 7 years ago. Should I hold to this strict Christianity that really was not serving me at the moment, or should I encourage people and myself to live life however seems “right” in the moment? For a season, I chose relativism. But this struggle is not unique to me of even this era. We see evidence of it starting way back in the early church. We see the church of Thyatira in Revelation battling against a redefining of tolerance.
Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman–that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet–to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.
Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and true away from her evil deeds. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them–depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,
To them I will give authority over all the nations,
They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.
They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to thr Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
First, we must note that not everything is wrong in the church of Thyatira. Jesus commends the church for the opposite thing as the church of Ephesus: instead of straying from their first love, they grew from where they were at first. Truly, this is how we should be in all things important to us. We should improve and do more than we did at first. If I were to lift the same exact weights or less that I did went I first started working out, there would be no progress in my fitness and at best I would simply maintain my body composition. Similarly, we should work to grow our faith muscles by constantly putting into practice what we know and doing more the more we know. To these faithful, hard workers in the faith, Jesus encouraged them to “hold tightly to what they have.” To these, he had nothing against.
Unfortunately, not all in Thyatira were faithful to growing in truth. Some of the people in the church tolerated a false teaching. They let tolerated promiscuity and lack of holiness. I’m sure it was in the name of love and acceptance that they subscribed to this “deeper truth,” yet their love was an insincere, soft love.
Repentance for this acceptance and affirmation of sin was the only way for the people to spare themselves from judgment. Let it be noted that God is gracious and gives plenty of time to even false prophets for repentance. If she would have truly turned from her ways with more time, I think it’s fair to think God would have given it to her. 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” Even though the prophetess wasn’t repenting, he gave those who followed her warning and time to return to truth.
We today can relate to this “tolerant” church. While post modernism, rejection of objective truth, seems like a new worldview, we see clearly here that nothing is new under the sun. A church almost 2,000 years ago similarly struggled with sticking to truth. Today, over 70% of young adults and around 50% of those who claim Christianity do not believe there is absolute truth. We want to love, which is good, but we sacrifice true love on the alter of tolerance. We want to be kind so we afirm those who believe differently, judge no one, and don’t hold to the hard truths of the gospel.
But is this really loving? Is everything we want to do good for us? Is everything we should do things we enjoy? No. What we want to do isn’t always the best thing for us and what we need to do often isn’t appealing to our hedonistic nature. If we really sit down and think through the logic explanation and God’s heart behind his commands, we can see that the most loving thing we can do is to hold to them. God loves each and every person on the earth, from Mother Teresa to Hitler. But we know if our hearts and from the Bible He cannot tolerate the sin of the holocaust. That is not loving.
Rules and commandments are in place for a reason. Soft love says, “you do you,” but true love says, “I love you enough to not let you stay in your destruction.” We, as disciples of Christ, cannot pretend like everything is okay for people to do or believe. We are called to love and that means we are called to correct wrong. That is truly a scary thought in the days of cancel culture and intolerance of “intolerance” or lack of affirmation. But remember, what God thinks of us has more eternal significance than what culture does. We should love others enough to warn them of their sin and give them space for repentance.
I completely understand that it feels like if we reject relativism we ourselves will be rejected. Modern pluralism has saturated our culture and unfortunately much of the church. But these are thr times we hold tightly to truth and the only opinion that really matters. Jesus is our Judge, not man. In Him, not culture, should we fear. If we are faithful to Him and His truth, we will be given authority by Jesus Himself. So let us live as the odd ones in our culture and let us cling to truth.