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What You Tolerate Today . . .

One of my favorite patterns in all of Scripture is this one from I & II Kings:

I Kings 22:41-44 — Jehoshaphat
41 Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. 42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43 In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

II Kings 12:1-3 — Joash
In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash[b] became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

II Kings 14:1-4 — Amaziah
In the second year of Jehoash[a] son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

II Kings 15:1-4 — Azariah
In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah[a] son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there

II Kings 15:32-35 — Jotham
32 In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother’s name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done. 35 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

Collectively, then, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, and Jotham are the However Kings:  basically good, decent men and competent leaders with one exception — they did not remove the “high places” from Israel.

And what were high places?  Centers of idol worship.  Shrines to Baal, Ashteroth, and Molech dotted the landscape of what was supposed to be the Holy Land.  The people defined by the commandment you shall have no other gods before me had allowed the influence of “other gods” to redefine them. 

So for all the good that the However Kings did, their flaw of tolerating that which should have been obliterated proves to be fatal.  Because the Babylonian Empire — worshippers of the same types of idols enshrined in the high places — ultimately conquer the kingdom of Judah and exile the best and brightest of the people.

The implication is clear:  what you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

It’s as if the Lord says to his people, “You’re allowing even the slightest bit of idolatry?  OK, then, I’ll let you experience that kind of life to the full. Welcome to Babylon.”

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

It’s true for denominations.  For over 100 years, we in Methodism have tolerated teaching that undermines the core tenets of our faith.  On subjects ranging from the inspiration of Scripture to the historicity of the Virgin Birth to the reality of heaven and hell and more recently the nature of human sexuality, we have allowed and affirmed that which runs counter to our stated beliefs.  And now the future of our connection looks bleak indeed as the debate over sexuality is on the verge of tearing us asunder.  What other organization funds its own insurrection?

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

It’s true for congregations.  I know of situations where local churches are held hostage by high profile members with racist attitudes, territorial temperaments, and a “no new people allowed” mentality.  And because we’re too nice to confront, because we excuse such behavior with “that’s just how they are,” the mission of the church becomes compromised.  By compromise.  And we wonder why so many local UMCs are closing?

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

It’s true for church staffs.  The longer you allow individual staffers to run just a few degrees off from total alignment, the more the entire organization veers off course. Pretty soon, most of your energy is directed at tiny course correction rather than advancing the mission.

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

And it’s true for individual lives.  What is it you that you are tolerating just a little bit in your life today?  Just a little too much flirtatious interaction with that one who is not your spouse?  Just a little too much alcohol to aid in celebration or to comfort on sadness?  Just a little too much daydreaming about revenge?  Just a little too much inappropriate web browsing on the same computer you are using to read this post?  Each of those areas — relationships, alcohol, vengeance, porn — have an incredible power to own you.  More quickly than you realize.

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

How about we learn from our However Ancestors and take down high places in our lives?  Starting today?

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