Tolerance vs Peace

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When King Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?” “How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as the prostitution and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” (2 Kings 9:22)

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” (Isa 48:22, 57:21 NIV)

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. (Jer 6:13-14, 8:10-11 NIV)

“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. (Ezek 13:10-11 NIV)

Joram didn’t answer Jehu’s question (see 2 Kings 9:22 above). Rather, “Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, ‘Treachery, Ahaziah!'” (2 Kings 9:23). Treachery indeed! Jehu chose to listen to God, and actively seek to fulfill his word on this occasion. The context tells us that Jehu had already known what God said about the house of Ahab, about Jezebel and their children, but before this he had not acted on that knowledge, nor apparently even spoken out about it.

Jehu’s statements affirm that he knew what Jezebel was doing was morally and spiritually wrong. But he and many others, knowing what God had said, knowing the difference between right and wrong, had been tolerant of her behavior, and its overflow into the whole society of Israel. Jehu and his fellow officers had ridden behind Ahab when he was denounced and his doom pronounced by God’s prophet (2 Kings 9:25-26). Jehu and all the people knew what Elijah had foretold about Jezebel, and why (2 Kings 9:36-37). But it wasn’t moral outrage or righteous indignation or zeal for God that prompted Jehu to move against Joram and Jezebel, it was the opportunity to become king himself. He moved against Joram only when he was assured he had the support of the army (2 Kings 9:1-15) as well as God’s condemnation of Ahab’s son and wife.

Nevertheless, Jehu’s question in reply to Joram’s question was on target. Tolerance of evil does not produce peace. How can there be peace when immorality and idolatry are openly flaunted? Whether the prostitution is physical immorality or spiritual ambiguity, whether the witchcraft is occultism or basic selfishness and personal power trips, evil does not and cannot produce peace. Like Joram, or the nation of Judah in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, there will always be people who think that they should just be left alone to do as they wish, and no one should speak against their behavior. “Peace” they say, “tolerance” they insist, but there is no peace. While Joram asked “is it peace” he and his mother and father before him had of course actively opposed and persecuted those who followed Jehovah. There is a double meaning to Isaiah’s statement that “there is no peace for the wicked.” While they want to be tolerated and accepted, they are never really willing to extend the same privilege to those who disagree with them, and so they neither know peace themselves nor allow peace for others.

Those who follow the Lord Jehovah today are not called upon to shoot arrows at the opposition as Jehu did or throw wicked people from windows as the eunuchs did to Jezebel, but if more of those people who intermittently identified themselves as being “on the Lord’s side” had just spoken the truth and stood up for what they believed, maybe those extreme actions would never have been called for at all. Jezebel could arrange the murder of Naboth with a flimsy cover story (1 Kings 21) not because she expected people to believe it was really justified, but because she expected people like Jehu and the eunuchs to just be quiet and follow on. And they did, for years.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel (see scriptures above) both decried the pretense that said “everything is fine” when political and spiritual leaders were morally and spiritually wrong. Whitewash may cover blemishes, but it endows no strength. Pretending that things are OK when they’re not, tolerating and even justifying wickedness, does not produce peace. Rather it ensures that the flimsy whitewashed wall will fall when disaster could have been averted. Honesty about what’s right, and what’s wrong, a dose of truth, can make a real difference.

“Treachery” Joram said. We should never resort to violence, but Christians must dare to speak the truth, to label sin as sin and decline to go along with it. Do so and you too will learn that those who most loudly acclaim tolerance are not tolerant, and know no peace. To speak the truth is, in those terms, treachery. But peace is only found in obedience to God, not tolerance of evil. Going along with the choices and behaviors of wicked people will never produce peace. How can there be peace when prostitution and witchcraft abound? Again, peace is only found in obedience to God, not tolerance of evil.

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