I am the kind of person that wants everybody to get along. I have the kind of faith that doesn’t want to exclude people. It bothers me when someone hurts another person. It frustrates me when someone doesn’t like a church, a group or another person, etc.
So the word tolerance is a word I like…until I start reading the Scriptures.
Tolerance and the Bible are not too words that go together very well in today’s culture. So the question is how can I love the believe in Jesus and love the Bible when those around me that aren’t Christians are speaking a message of tolerance? I don’t want to seem like I am against someone…especially if that someone is somebody I care about. I want those around me to truly love and experience Jesus. There’s no question about it. But when I have to tell that person that I love or that I am trying to express the love of Jesus to that they are “wrong” about a particular choice, life-partner or belief…it makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel like they are going to reject me and even worse, reject Jesus. This is the tension for The New Young Christian.
Can tolerance and faith coexist? Let’s find out. First we have to ask ourselves, “what is tolerance?” The original definition of tolerance means “to acknowledge that others have differing beliefs and accept that it is their right to do so.”
This definition of tolerance I don’t mind because it says, “you do you” and no hard feelings. However, the original definition from then compared to today’s definition is different. Today’s definition means by today’s cultural standard means, “to accept that beliefs other than yours are just as true as your own beliefs.”
Now I’m starting to get uncomfortable because the Bible says to me to believe something different. Not a tolerant view but an exclusive view.
Now I’m even more uncomfortable.
The bible is specific that people will have different beliefs than you and that others will not take it lightly:
Romans 1:18-25 says that God gives us all evidence that He is true.
John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only way amongst all the other spiritual paths
Luke 6:22 says that we are blessed when others reject us
John 15:18 says that when the world hates you, they hated Christ first.
These Scriptures are clear about some things: That people are not always going to agree with you and will even get hostile because faith in God is exclusive through Jesus. Basically, God has told us clearly in Scripture…people won’t be tolerant. So that means that people willreject you because they expect tolerance from you and from your Christian beliefs and you won’t be able to give it.
Tolerance is something that is celebrated and practiced widely by many. So how do we respond as The New Young Christian to this?
I think it’s this:
In a time of tolerance, what if we practiced being gracious instead: having a forgiving attitude and a compassionate posture while walking in wisdom with those who belief’s, attitudes and opinions differ from yours.
Let's strive to be gracious instead...not tolerant. The key phrases being: forgiving and compassionate. Basically it's kindness. These words are universal words that a culture that is hostile towards Christianity can get behind. Christians usually lead from a place of defensiveness and what you’re against when it comes to issues that demand a tolerance label from culture. But what if we changed our positioning to proclaim what we are for and show it through actions of forgiveness, compassion and kindness. It’s hard to resist a kind person. It’s hard to be hostile towards a compassionate person. It’s difficult to deny someone’s forgiveness. These actions not only disarm someone who doesn't understand my ideas on issues of faith but now Christianity becomes attractive to an unbeliever. Not only that, but it opens up that person to possibly listen to you on what you have to say because of your graciousness.
This posture of graciousness not only stops tolerance in it's tracks but I think it overpowers it. Forgiveness, compassion and kindness are words that unify and not divide. These words promote unity and peace than proving you're right on an issue. I'd like to think of graciousness as being irresistible to anyone because of it's very nature of being kind about a cultural position. But it's not just showing kindness it's also being wise. It's knowledge of what is true and right with insight and sound judgement.
Of course the Bible says it best:
“Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6 NLT
How is graciousness lived out practically?
Find out in part 2….