Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coexisting with the "Tolerant"

One objection to Christianity I sometimes hear from non-believers is that religious differences have supposedly caused more wars than anything else. As a result, we are now seeing similarly designed bumper stickers urging people to “coexist” and have “tolerance” of one other.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines coexist as “exist in mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests.” Ironically, many people who advocate tolerance are in reality intolerant of Christianity because of Scripture that won’t condone their lifestyle choices. Ronald Reagan once said, “The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance. Question: Isn’t the real truth that they are intolerant of religion?”

Jesus did pray for unity in John chapter 17 but only amongst believers. The Lord doesn’t like strife and division within His body. Psalm 101:5 (NLT) says, “I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.” We are also commanded in Ephesians 4:27 to give no place to the devil.

There is such a thing as being too narrow-minded when it comes to God wanting to do new things through His people. Rodney Howard-Browne says, “Some people are so narrow-minded that they can look through a keyhole with both eyes.” In Acts 5:38-39, Gamaliel offered sound advice about reacting to new moves of God. Unless disciples are obviously promoting dangerous practices, it is wiser to be tolerant than repressive. Otherswise, we might find ourselves “fighting against God.”

But one thing Christians cannot tolerate is doctrine opposing the Word of God. One YouTuber wrote to me claiming, “All religions teach the same truth.” Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to Father except through Me.” Notice Jesus said He was THE truth…not a truth.

Nevertheless, Christians should be compassionate towards those that don’t know the truth of God’s word. Some of you might have co-workers or even a spouse who are non-believers. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

But some men don’t want to live in peace. Take a look at Islam for example. The God of the Koran is certainly not tolerant of non-Muslims...

“I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. That is because they opposed Allah and His messenger. Whoso opposeth Allah and His messenger, (for him) lo! Allah is severe in punishment.” - Surah 8:12-13

Some people reading this might ask, “What about the Crusades?” Throughout history, atrocities have been carried out in the name of God. But that doesn’t mean God Himself was behind those things.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Of course, we must resist evil in cases of war and confronting criminals.

As “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are to be in this world but not of it. Therefore, I exhort you to be intolerant of sin but tolerant of people who hold views contrary to Christianity. By speaking the truth in love, God can use you to lead some of them to Him.

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”
- Hebrews 12:14

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