Tim Keller on an underlying motivation for tolerance

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons @Frank Licorice

I was reading an old sermon from Tim Keller, and was blown away by an observation he made regarding acceptance.

“Some of us are extremely accepting. People will come to you and talk to you about their problems because you are so accepting. You are so non-judgmental. The reason you’re non-judgmental is … You’re gentle. The reason you’re gentle is because you have no self-control in your own life. You’re always falling down, and you’re always lapsing. You’re always breaking your own promises. You’re always breaking promises to others. That’s the reason why you’re so tolerant and accepting. You have no discipline of your own. That’s why you’re so open.

In other words, your tolerance and your acceptance are not coming from humility and peace and joy. It’s just a way of dealing with your own conscience. Some people are incredibly unflappable. They seem to have peace, but they’re not gentle, and they’re not kind. Where did they get their peace from? They don’t care. They don’t care! That’s not real peace. These things will all break down.”

-Tim Keller “New hope, new family”

Acceptance and tolerance are popular ideas in our society. They’re basically the cardinal virtues of 21st century America.

No matter what people do, accept and tolerate it. We call that love.

I think Keller is onto something. We don’t want to acknowledge our own failures and sins and shortcomings and so we instead want to justify the actions of others so we can feel better about our own actions.

The problem is that it doesn’t make us feel better. On the outside, it might, but we know our sinfulness in our own hearts. We know we often don’t even measure up to our own standards, let alone those of God.

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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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