Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In a World of Tolerance

"Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."  Voltaire

We hear so much of the word "tolerance" these days.  The 60s and 70s were all about "love".  The 80s were all about "me".  The 90s were "whatever" and now in 2010..."Tolerance".  Is it possible for Christians to be tolerant without compromising the truth?  I say yes.  I also say that we are  commanded by God in His word to be tolerant of one another; not only of fellow brothers in Christ but for non-Christians as well.  We as Christians should at least know the golden rule and that is to love one another.  Jesus even went so far to say that we should love our enemies.  But Christians seem to be the worse at this because they think that it will compromise their faith.  I did a post not to long ago on what I personally believe God meant by commanding us to love our enemy...click here to read that post.

I want to take this post a little further and look at the word "endure".  If you read the definition above you will see that much of it centers around the idea of endurance.  I chose to use the definition of "tolerance" from Webster's Dictionary of 1913 {see above}since it lacks the "political correctness" of the present day definition which says..."sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own."  See the difference?  We need not indulge sin, but we must tolerate it and endure it in others.

Now in everything we should look at the life of Christ to be our guide as to how we should conduct ourselves while still here on the earth.  What I want to focus on is how we are to interact with non-believers.  How are we to tolerate them?   How did Jesus tolerate them?  It is well noted in the gospels that Jesus did not come to condemn or judge the world he came to save it.  Jesus allowed everyone to approach him.  His door was always open and he went through every open door.  Though he never sinned he was a friend to sinners, broke bread with them and ministered to them.  Some followed and some walked away.  Did Jesus stand there and yell "How dare you deny the truth of the living God!"? No, he let them walk away.  There was much wisdom in this because even though not all accepted him, the door always remained open.  He didn't burn any bridges with anyone.  Instead he let his love and righteousness plant the seed.  Sometimes it bore fruit and sometimes it didn't, but at all times He was tolerant as to the choice of the person.

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children." Matt 11:19

Jesus really is quite a testimony to the heart of God for his created.  We know that the wages of sin is death.  Yet so many have lived.  Furthermore whole civilizations have been allowed to live in total opposition to God.  When Jesus walked the earth He was God in the flesh.  The same God that had required complex rituals and sacrifice before he could be approached in the Holy of Holies was now walking among us.  The same God that had consumed sin with fire and the opening up of the earth was now face to face with the most unclean.  Did anyone burst into flames or get swallowed in the earth during the ministry of Jesus?  No. Jesus' sole purpose on this earth was to redeem, reconcile, heal, forgive, minister and love.  In doing this he endured and tolerated us even unto death just in the hopes that we would accept him.

"Consider him {Jesus} who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory."  2 Tim 2:10

It is because of the cross and what Jesus did for you and me that we MUST endure and tolerate the sin of others!  Jesus made it very clear in the book of John that once we have partaken in our personal salvation that we are no longer of this world, just as Jesus is no longer of this world.  But we unlike Jesus are still in this world.  We were left in the world but not of the world, to continue in the ministry Jesus started.  So if you must consider tolerating others that don't agree with you suffering, so be it.  I like how number 3 in the above definition is a medical one.  Tolerance to a drug means you can take more than the normal person without suffering the effects.  This should be us Christians!  We have the benefit and power of the Holy Spirit's covering.  We should be able to tolerate all kinds of sin without being affected.  We are not to rule the world.  We are to testify truth and righteousness. We are to be righteous witnesses of a gospel of reconciliation, hope and love.  Never condemning or judging.  The moment you judge an un-believer the door is closed.  You have lost the only chance that person may have in coming to the Lord. 
"...but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ...For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them...I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." 1 Cor 9:12,19,22

"For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." 2 Tim 2:10

Endure all things, tolerate all things and be a servant to all.  This is hard to swallow for some.  But try to look at in in separate compartments.  Tolerance doesn't mean agreement.  If it meant agreement then you wouldn't have to tolerate anything...lol.  So are we to become indulgent within the faith and say anything goes?  No.  As Christians we have clear Biblical standards that we must live by.  We cannot let the world's standards and moral compass become our own.  First and foremost we are to live righteous lives rooted in the truth of God's word.  But as for those outside the faith we are not to tell people how to live their lives.  We can only be an example and hopefully a good one.
"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."  1Cor 5:12-13
So there are different degrees of tolerance.  Different expectations from those who have a knowledge of Christ and those who don't.  As to those who don't know Christ our best witness is going to be as Jesus showed.  That is to love them and minister to them without any expectation.  To let the way we live our lives and the good deeds we do speak without words.  Then as someone feels led they will ask and we will answer.  But until that time don't slam the door in people's face.  Don't burn bridges.  Don't judge those that  you have no right to judge.  A Christian's quest for world domination has always led to bloodshed.  We are not called to dominate we are called to serve.  To make the offer and be at peace with the fact that some will accept and others won't.  Sometimes the best witness is a silent witness.  Leave the Bible out of conversations and just be a friend.  Keep loving those that don't accept Jesus, keep being friend's with those that don't accept Jesus, keep being a silent, righteous witness to those that don't Jesus; because maybe one day your endurance will change their mind.  And Jesus will be standing at the door you left open.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1Cor 13:7

“By your endurance you will gain your lives." Luke 21:19

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