Zero Tolerance

0702. The Deception of Zero Tolerance

The term zero tolerance has become engrained in the United States for the last decade or so.  It was originally intended to be used as a strong deterrent against committing a crime. The punishment or discipline was usually severe, and was typically automatically imposed without room for leniency. However, the term soon started to be adopted outside of law enforcement, as schools and businesses adopted zero tolerance programs and policies as more general behavioral deterrents. From a policy perspective, it means that if someone violates the rules, it is deemed unacceptable and is mandatorily punished. Common zero tolerance policies include hate speech and drug use. Violation of the policies can result in employee firings, student suspensions or expulsions, and even arrest and criminal prosecution.

With the popularity of social media today, the term has evolved once again where if someone is offended by a certain type of behavior or speech, they can blacklist or ostracize the offender through social media. This is now more commonly known as cancel culture, and has had a significant effect on free speech. People are now afraid to speak their minds freely for fear that anyone might consider them offensive. Cancel culture has become an effective weapon to silence one’s opponents and cause them to lose support.

Zero tolerance and cancel culture are the reality of our culture today. However, it is possible there is an even more dangerous consequence of zero tolerance that is well hidden by the enemy. You see, zero tolerance is not a new concept. It has been around since the days of the Bible, but it had a different name: unforgiveness. As Christians, we have been forgiven our sins by the crucifixion of Jesus. Even while suffering on the cross in Luke 23:34 (NIV): “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” If we are to live our lives like Christ, we must also forgive those who have offended us. This is best described in the Bible through the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. God is asking us to lead by example and change the way we treat each other by showing mercy and forgiveness.

To accept zero tolerance and cancel culture suggests that we also accept unforgiveness. And to continue to have unforgiveness in our hearts prevents us from coming closer to God. What if God had declared, “From now on, we have a zero-tolerance policy on sin. Anyone who commits a sin will not be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” If that had occurred, God would be doling out quite a lot of justice and would be all alone in Heaven. Fortunately for us, Jesus said, “No worries, I got everyone covered who wants forgiveness.” Ponder that this week.

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