Our culture has made “tolerance” a most noble virtue. Almost everything must be tolerated it seems. Sexual immorality, profanity, situation ethics, etc., can all be displayed with pride, but Christian principles must be kept in silence, never proclaimed or defended. If a Christian stands up for his faith against sin, he is labeled “intolerant,” no matter how peaceful his words or demeanor. Those doing the labeling rarely realize their hypocrisy in not tolerating a Christian to respectfully articulate his opposition to a certain practice.
I read an article recently in which a preacher was asked why he didn’t just preach the gospel and leave others with different convictions alone. I thought his response was quite good. He went through a list of nearly twenty Bible topics and noted that no matter what topic was addressed, someone would be displeased! For example, to preach that God created all things bothers the evolutionist. To preach that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior upsets those of other religions. To preach that one must be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins angers many in the denominational world who do not believe baptism is necessary for salvation. We could supply more examples, but you get the idea.
Ultimately, no matter what is taught there will be someone somewhere who disagrees and takes offense. So, what’s a preacher to do? The answer: Exactly what God tells him to do! As Paul told the young evangelist, Timothy:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Although preachers are not to be mean-spirited or belligerent with their words, neither are they to be paralyzed in the pulpit, afraid of who might be offended by their declarations of truth. A preacher can and must convince, rebuke, and exhort with patience and grace in his speech (cf. Colossians 4:6). He cannot avoid certain subjects that he knows are likely to offend. He has a duty to proclaim sound doctrine, and not to restrict himself only to that which he knows will please his listeners.
The apostle Paul was innocent of the blood of all men, for he did not avoid declaring “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He preached it all – even the parts some would rather he didn’t. If he failed to do this, he would bear some responsibility for their destruction (cf. Ezekiel 3:17-21). Paul was a watchman, and so are preachers today.
Gospel preachers must preach God’s word in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15), whether men like it or not. They must preach it whether men will receive it or not. They must preach it even if it makes some mad. Faithful men really have no other choice in the matter. God will judge them for their words. Woe unto any preacher who is afraid – due to his listeners – to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Such a one should not preach at all (cf. James 3:1).