Judgment and Tolerance


I, together with the executive pastor of my home congregation, am responsible to give advice to the session of my own church, to see that each candidate is carefully examined as to personal faith in Christ. If two girls join on the same day and one wears cosmetics and the other does not, that is their business. They are not answerable to the pastors or to the church. They are answerable only to God. The same is the attitudes of either men or women toward the movies, dancing, the use of tobacco, or membership in lodges. Some churches impose rules on the one who is joining, but biblically we can have no such rules. We would take in anyone who confesses the great truths of sin in himself and salvation through Christ. If we feed these new members on the Word and show them the love of Christ, they will gradually be won to a higher walk in Christ, but will always be answerable to Him alone.
Now this command to show love, and the accompanying command against judging and legalism, are directives from God himself. He has accepted the individuals. He has received them from all walks and from all social backgrounds. We do wrong to try and make them into identical robots. A certain school recently showed a movie for the first time – a Walt Disney fantasy. But a sequence of some animals dancing was removed before the students saw the movie. The magazine of another school made mention of a class play. A donor wrote that he would not give money to a school that put out plays. The dean of the school wrote in reply that the presentation was not actually a play but a “skit”. Reassured, the man resumed giving regularly to the support of the school.
Why do I cite these examples about dancing, drinking, lodges, movies, cosmetics, and so on? I am not taking sides, but I am acknowledging that these arguments and differences exist, and that many true Christians hold opposite positions on all such questions. I believe the biblical attitude is to avoid legalism and live so close to the Lord that one could participate in these activities if he so desired. He may choose to abstain lest he cause young believers to stumble. Passages like this present one, however, should enable us to say to those who argue about these things, “God bless you both. Just be sure that you are living according to what you believe is the will of God for you. Love the Lord, and ask him to show you what your attitude should be.”
Here are two believers who hold opposing views on some matter – liberty to eat this or drink that, for example. One believes that he has perfect liberty to enjoy the food or drink, and thanks God for it. The other believes he must abstain from it and tells the Lord that he is giving it up because of love for his son, the Lord Jesus. I believe that the Bible is telling us here that the Lord will say to both: “My good children. You did exactly what you thought would please me. I love you both and am rewarding you equally because it pleased me so much that you wanted to please me.” BE SURE OF THE FACT that there will be no hiding behind subterfuge in that day. Perhaps some Christians claim that they abstain from eating and drinking certain foods and beverages in order to please the Lord, when actually they are seeking to enhance themselves in the eyes of men and to obtain a reputation for superior piety. On the other hand, there are people who are eating and drinking in the name of liberty but who secretly believe that they are doing wrong. All these attitudes will be brought to full light when the Lord comes for his own. In that day His eye will look straight through us. All shadow will be gone. The only thing that will matter will be that we who have been redeemed by Him will face Him and know that we are answerable to Him alone.
-Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, on Romans 14:1-4
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