“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” – Revelations 3:15
As I write this, I’m sitting here at Chapman University – they have a nice library that stays open pretty late. As I watch the students traveling around campus, I feel a bit of nostalgia about academic life. I love how you are presented with a sense of identity as soon as you walk on any campus; buildings are decorated with plagues and flags identifying core values, principles, mottos, and codes of ethics. You know what the school stands for right away. One interesting evolution in this has been the enforcement of new rules known as “zero tolerance policies”. You hear of these policies often in academia and in the workplace; it’s essentially an organizations hard stance on maintaining an environment of integrity that is consistent with their promoted values. There are automatic consequences for behaviors considered “unethical” (e.g. sexual harassment, cheating, stealing). Zero tolerance policies are just that – non-negotiable. Some have argued that these policies are too rigid – what about the gray areas? Well, in the world of Zero Tolerance, the gray doesn’t exist.
I get it; we don’t like hard lines – especially in this country. We like lines that are fuzzy, lightly shaded or, even better, dotted so we can slip in and out of boundaries unnoticed. In this country, this land of the free, we like the discretion to choose whether or not we are right or wrong. Disagree? Think about that the next time you get pulled over for speeding or running a red light and you explain how “technically” you didn’t break the law.
Well schools or employers weren’t the first to come up with Zero Tolerance policies. Zero Tolerance is discussed in the Bible. In fact, the whole point of sanctification as a believer in Christ is to recognize the hard lines, good vs. evil, dark vs. light, holiness vs. sin, spirit vs. flesh. There are things that draw us nearer to God and things that draw us further away.
Don’t stop reading yet. I’m not going to hand you your spiritual pink slip or send you to detention, but I am going to encourage you to stop giving yourself so many “outs”. Color in those lines, and start committing to “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). This isn’t about going around and writing up citations on others – this is an inside job.
David’s personal Zero Tolerance policy can be found in Psalm 101:
“I will be careful to lead a blameless life – when will You come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile or vulgar” (v. 2-3)
Those are some pretty hard lines! In this context, David is using blameless as one who is perfect or godly.
Blameless = zero tolerance of sin and ungodliness
That’s a tall order. I’ve already established that zero tolerance is not in our nature. David knew that, which is why in the midst of his proclamation he asks a powerful question. He asks God, “when will you come to me?” as if to say “unless You come and help me, I cannot keep this commitment”. And David was right. Unless we rely on God, we will fall short of perfection every time.
Then David makes another wise observation. While Zero Tolerance policies tend to focus on the actions and conduct, the policy has to start much deeper, which is why he then points to having a “blameless heart” (v.2). Our motives and conduct spring out of the condition of our heart, right? So, the goal isn’t focused on getting “brownie points” for good behavior, but pursuing a blameless life by perfectly aligning our heart with God’s will.
Just last week, I had one of my ladies in my woman’s group ask about this. Only Jesus can ever claim to be perfect, right? True. As long as we’re wrapped in this pesky flesh, we will never “arrive” at perfection. But my answer to her was this – we are not perfect, but we are ALWAYS perfecting. That means when we fall short, we get back up and get on track, when we sin, we repent and turn away from that behavior, when the Holy Spirit pulls up beside us in His spiritual police car and cites us for being out of line, we don’t make excuses or argue technicalities, we own it and get it right.
That is what zero tolerance means.
So I want to ask you a few questions:
- In your daily walk, are you seeking perfection or permission?
- Where can you do a better job in employing a zero tolerance policy in your own life?
When you think about it, there was nothing “gray” about the cross. Jesus didn’t get to compromise or negotiate his crucifixion. Death had no tolerance for life. His sacrifice was complete. His surrender was perfect. That’s what Kingdom living is all about. It’s all or nothing.
Let’s pray: Father God, help me to live a blameless life. Help me to adopt a zero tolerance policy and be uncompromising in my pursuit of You. I will live out Your word and Your promises; protecting my mind, body, and spirit from those things that may cause me to negotiate when it comes to holiness and purity. Renew my mind and heart. Wash them with Your word. I lay myself down right now – all my sin. I yield to Your truths and what they say about my thoughts and actions. I’m drawing the line right now. No middle ground. Your way or nothing at all. In Jesus name. Amen.