Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Tolerance and Love: Big Differences
"There is a difference between tolerance and love."
I heard that said on Christian radio one day, probably a year ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. I can't recall who said it, but I agree wholeheartedly with the statement, because I believe it can be backed up with scripture. Let me explain.
It is a scary thing, but we live in a society today where being open-minded, or tolerant, is not just popular, it is expected. Often times, if you are anything but you are seen as hateful, judgemental, closed-minded, or as a bigot. (Oprah probably has some more fancy terms in her vocabulary, but I can't think of any right now.) What it boils down to is- being intolerant in today's cultural environment is as bad as being a leper was in biblical times.
There's this huge bandwagon movement sweeping across the country today that cries out for the world to just live and let live. The message is that we should be accepting of the personal choices of others to live alternative lifestyles or worship whatever god (or item with a price tag, or Hollywood celebrity...) that they choose. The message is- that whatever someone else chooses to do with their life, it is none of our stinkin' business. BUT- we should be completely open and supportive of it.
Well, I'm sorry Oprah, Brad, Barrack, and any number of Kennedy's- but I just can't. The truth is brothers and sisters in Christ- there is extreme danger in tolerance.
Take for example, the nation of Israel in the time of Jehu; as he was destroying the ministers of Baal. Israel was supposed to be intolerant of any religion that did not worship the true God. They were supposed to be God's special nation, chosen to be an example for what was right. But, Israel's priests, kings, and elders first tolerated, and then incorporated the surrounding pagan beliefs. By saying that they would be accepting of the beliefs of others, sin worked its way into the kingdom, and eventually they succumbed to it. Israel should have been, and we should always be intolerant of sin and remove it from our lives. We cannot condone beliefs or practices that lead people away from God's standards. (This is found in 2 Kings, chapter 10. Further scripture references: Matthew 5:29-30.)
What is perhaps the most troubling admission today is the acceptance of homosexuality by many of today's modern churches. I'll give you one example. This is an excerpt from the history of policies on homosexuality from one Christian denomination, which was updated in 2001. While the denomination does not allow homosexual persons to become ordained as ministers or to hold wedding ceremonies in their churches, they are tolerating sin within the church body:
...Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation -- Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law...
Make no mistake, when the body of believers begins to tolerate sin in the church, it is lowering the standards set by God Himself, and compromising the church's witness. When there is sin in the lives of church members that is left uncorrected, God's laws have been abandoned. The truth is, homosexuality is strictly forbidden in scripture. (Leviticus 18:22)
Now, don't get me wrong. God is willing to receive ANYONE who comes to Him in faith, and will forgive all sins, for all sins are equal in His sight. But those that feel that they should be free to express whatever desires that they have, even if they are unnatural and wrong according to God's standards, and still be a part of God's church are deceived. Plain and simple. God does not obligate nor encourage us to fulfill all our desires (even normal ones). Sexual immorality is especially dangerous because it has tremendous power to destroy families, churches, and communities, because it destroys the integrity on which these relationships are built. The God who loves us desires to protects us, and so wants us to stay away from these sins.
In Revelations 2:2-3, the church in Ephesus is commended by the apostle John for their perseverance:
2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
The church in Ephesus had consistently refused to tolerate sin among its members, even in a city that was known for immoral sexual practices associated with the worship of the pagan goddess Artemis. In this passage, John is praising them for remaining true to the laws of the Lord. It was not easy for them to be resistant in this area, and constantly call for the accountability of its members, but it was something that they knew was correct in the eyes of the Lord. It is the same today. Even when it is unpopular to be intolerant, as many might say, it is what the Lord requires of His people.
Now- back to the quote: "There is a difference between tolerance and love."
[Tolerance avoids confrontation in order to maintain ‘peace.’ Love tells the truth boldly and graciously in order to bring about a deeper, more lasting peace.”
Excerpt from Holy Subversion (pp 145-146)]
While as followers of Christ, we certainly cannot be tolerant of sin, we are still called to love without judgement. Meaning: I abhor the sin, but love the sinner.
Many who claim they are working in the name of the Lord and carrying out His wishes have done erratic things, such as blow up abortion clinics, commit hate crimes against homosexuals, or carry out acts of violence against those who worship something other than the one true God. The fact is- God would not ever condone any of those actions. People who do awful things like this are acting on their own human nature, and their own desire to eradicate anyone who doesn't believe the way that they do. This is wrong, and this is where many Christians have gotten a bad rap.
John 13:34-35 says... 34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Would the God who commands us to love one another ever ask us to violate each other because of our differences? Absolutely not. The Lord says- "vengeance is mine." Those that have resorted to such acts have become weak in their faith. When we feel we are in a spiritual battle, is is easy for conflict to weaken or destroy our patience, affection, and charitable spirit. We must guard against things that can stress and reduce our love, by keeping our eyes fixed upon Him, not the things and the troubles of the world.
While tolerance of sin is not an option, love most certainly is required. God did not say, "love the people that are easy to love," or "love everyone who believes as you do." It doesn't work like that. He asks us, calls us, to love each and every soul that He created. By this, we show His love; a love based on the sacrifice of Jesus. And in doing so, we might possibly influence someone living outside of the standards and laws of God to repent and turn to Him.
I'll leave you with a final thought: Be steadfast in your beliefs, loving always, but not compromising yourself to become tolerant. And remember who takes the victory in the end. I take comfort in the words found in Acts 5:38...For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. Any religion designed by man will eventually fail. Any notion of popular culture or standards made by man will eventually fail. Nothing that is not of God will survive; everything else will be burned up and turned to dust. When you feel like you are fighting a losing battle with open-mindedness, remember those words.