Sunday, December 22, 2013

being intolerant


It seems to be something of a buzz word lately, with everybody demanding tolerance and accusing the opposition--whoever that happens to be at the time--of being intolerant.

My original plan for this post was a call to tolerance for both sides, but as I've been looking into it more deeply I've come to a conclusion some people might find alarming:
Christianity is and must be inherently intolerant.

Now, hopefully you'll stick with me for a bit and hear me out--I know that probably sounds strange, but I promise I'm going somewhere with it.

tolerate: allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference

Society tells Christians (and so do some preachers and teachers in the church) to be tolerant, that we should respect the beliefs of others as being equally valid. Many today try to say that loving others--which is what Christ stressed above all commandments other than loving God--means being fully accepting of everything they do.

People claim that for a Christian to stand against something and come out and call it sin is wrong and even "not the Christian thing to do." We are called judgmental and hateful and bigots and told to keep our opinions to ourselves. We are called out for standing up for our own beliefs by the very people who are demanding we "tolerate" the beliefs of others.

So what are we supposed to do?

Do we go along with what society demands of us?
Do we keep our mouths shut and our eyes closed to what is happening around us?
Do we gloss over what the Bible calls sin because somebody might be offended?
Do we give in and go along with the idea that all religions are equally valid and that as long as someone lives a "good life" nothing else matters?
Do we temper our words in the name of being politically correct?

Or, like Paul, do we say, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

We are called "Christians" because we are called to become like Christ--One who was most definitely not concerned with being seen as politically correct. We are told to speak the truth, and to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15)

Do we ignore sin? In Jesus's own words, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3b) We should take our cue from Him, then, and rebuke those who sin.

rebuke: express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions

We can't stop there, though. We are also commanded to forgive those who repent

repent: to experience sorrow for and seek to change wrong behavior

--which is something we all tend to forget about. The rebuking part is necessary, but it is nothing without the forgiveness part.

In the 8th chapter of John, we're given a wonderful example of how to deal with sin. Jesus had just sat down to teach when He was brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to be able to trap Jesus. Here was this man who was going around preaching love, so in their eyes that meant He would have to either ignore her sin and go against Scripture or say she should be stoned as the law demanded and therefore contradict (in their eyes) the message He had been preaching.

What was Jesus's answer? He told the woman's accusers that whoever was sinless could throw the first stone, then He scribbled in the dirt.

That wasn't the end, though. After everyone else left, Jesus didn't condemn the woman to death as would have been His right. At the same time, though, He didn't ignore her sin. Instead He told her, "Go now and leave your life of sin." (verse 11)

Like Christ, we should speak in love when addressing sin. And like the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, we should realize that none of us is without sin before we catch ourselves throwing the first stone. If God grants us mercy and doesn't give us the punishment our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10), shouldn't we extend that same mercy to others? Especially since it is God who is the judge, the only One with the authority to dispense justice.

And what about the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God? That stands in direct opposition to what Christ Himself said, no matter how loving it may sound. "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" (John 14:6) He also said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the One I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)

So speak the truth. Take a stand for your beliefs and refuse to bow before the idol of political correctness. Confront sin, but do so out of love while remembering that we are all just sinners saved by grace.

And when the world rises up against you, take heart. Remember Jesus's words: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:18&19)

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