We are posing the question: Can you be a Christian and be tolerant?
The New Young Christian believes in a time of tolerance, what if we practiced being gracious instead. What does it mean to practice graciousness?
Graciousness means 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 start with having a “forgiving attitude.” I’m not saying you have to walk around saying “I forgive you” to everyone who has a different opinion than you. What I am saying is when your attitude is, “I won’t hold it against you when you have a different belief than I” you are wanting to continue to go relationally farther with that person despite what their beliefs are. I’ve seen with Christians that when we are in a situation with someone who has a different belief than us, we can get awkward. How do I know this? Because I have friends who are gay and I love them dearly. When some Christians get around them and they find they are gay, they don’t know what to do. It’s like they get nervous, look around and want to “change the subject to sports” or I mean, “fashion and HGTV” or I mean “hiking footwear.” Dang, I’m awkward now. A forgiving attitude says, "even though we have different views we can still have conversations."
Faith is personal. Religion makes people passionate. And that’s ok and normal. So if someone says something or does something that goes against a personal conviction that you might have it is naturally going to evoke an emotion. Your job as a follower of Christ is to move on past that emotion towards loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself which all the commandments hinge on anynow (Matthew 22:36-40) so that you can eventually share the truth of Jesus with that person. For example, you have a friend of a friend that thinks it’s OK to sleep with a woman because “it’s just sex.” When you hear that statement in a brief few seconds there are a few things internally that are happening. You are making a judgment if that is a true statement…which of course as a Christian we would say that statement is absolutely not true.
Emotionally, for a brief moment, that should displease you because, as a Christian having sex before marriage is wrong. So having a “forgiving attitude” helps you understand that this person doesn’t know Scripture, truth or most likely have a relationship with Christ. Or if they do have some sort of faith background, they are obviously confused. A gracious person will choose to “not hold the comment against them, but will choose to forgive it and continue to be relationally engaged and connected to that person for the greater good found in Jesus. And not only that, a gracious person looks for ways in this conversation to move them closer to the heart and mind of Christ when it comes to sexual relationships with women with sincerity and love.
A compassionate posture is the second part of being gracious. In a tolerant community, a gracious person is going to be different. Tolerance seems to have the right idea until it eventually doesn’t agree with you but it seemed like a good idea at the time (kind of like that extra spicy chili-dog with the jalapeno’s, grilled onions with extra beans and queso you decided to eat after 8pm). Tolerance seems to bully itself to be the right thing or be the right person or prove a point. Tolerance has a well-intentioned idea for us all to get along…until it goes against the idea presented. Tolerance has a posture of antagonism because if you don’t agree, it finds a satisfaction with being “hateful” or “ignorant” if the others do not agree.
A gracious person postures themselves by having a humble yet confident voice to share the truth of Scripture with love and respect. Their motive is goodwill and kindness because it’s the kindness of Jesus in a follower of Christ that actually compels someone to reconsider their stance and opinion and move to a posture of repentance (Romans 2:4). A posture of protest or “facebook-yelling” doesn’t change someone’s heart as much as a genuine conversation or authentic gesture. A compassionate posture reflects a sympathy for the other’s misunderstood thoughts on life. Not only do they hear and observe their misguided thinking but a gracious person has a strong desire to alleviate their suffering of living with misbelief. As a loving follower of Jesus, we know the potent words of Jesus will always move someone towards freedom from faulty thinking more than a good-intentioned opinion from the tolerant crowd, it’s just the tolerant person doesn’t know it yet.
A gracious person walks in wisdom with a tolerant person. First, the Bible makes it really plain to us as Christians, “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is our creator and because of Him we have our origin, purpose and our design. Second, Jesus is our wisdom, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy and freed us from sin” (1 Corinthians 1:30). These last two Scriptures shows us thatJesus knows how we are made and he shows us how we should function. Graciousness has the eyes to see beyond the crowds opinion and the wisdom to move others forward into their designed future that God has prepared for them (Proverbs 3:5-6). My friend Samuel Deuth (samueldeuth.com) says it this way about tolerance, “Tolerance leaves people where they are, but love pulls people up to their designed God-purpose.”
Here’s my point: How Jesus deals with differing opinions is how we should deal with opinions that are different from us. A gracious person is Jesus. The ethic of graciousness is found in treating others like Jesus treated others without compromising the truth of Scripture. So how did Jesus deal with tolerance?
7 Ways Jesus Would Deal With Tolerance:
1. Channel your passions
Jesus was facing popular opposition in his day. When confronted with stubborn, unredeemed and resistant people, Jesus actually is referenced as being angry at their stance on a particular religious issue. Mark says Jesus “…looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.” Might be the only time we see Jesus angry and performing a miracle at the same time. So how does Jesus channel is anger and sadness at their ignorance? He chooses to be angry (without sinning of course) and do God’s will at the same time because it can be done and is what a gracious person does.
2. Pay it forward positively
God insists, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…do not take revenge…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17). Jesus mission was to seek and save the lost. He had a fierce determination to not allow the opposition of others to sidetrack him from his purpose or to deflect him from his mission. And at the end of the day Jesus is to overcome evil with good. Jesus doesn't overcome evil with protest. He doesn't overcome evil with twitter rants. Jesus doesn't seem to overcome evil with boycotting. Jesus isn't overcoming evil by yelling or arguing with others. He will get attention by flipping a table and pulling out a whip on occasion, yes. But Jesus ultimate goal is to seek transformation not attention.
Peter tried to repay evil for evil by picking a battle and even going as far as to hurt those against them physically by cutting off a Roman guards ear (Luke 22:51). Trying to payback an eye for an eye or an ear for an ear is not the heart of Jesus. As a matter of fact he spoke to Peter saying, "Am I leading a rebellion?" And he healed the soldiers ear. Jesus response was healing not hurting...maybe that should be our response as well. Here's one...do we boycott Target for transgender bathrooms or do we offer to clean the bathrooms of Target to show the world that serving might be more valuable than protesting?
The rest will be in the next post…