|Posted on July 23, 2009 at 3:21 AM|
Not long ago, the word 'tolerance' meant 'bearing or putting up with someone or something not especially liked'. However, now the word has been redefined to 'all values, all beliefs, all lifestyles, all truth claims are equal'.1 Denying this makes a person 'intolerant', and thus worthy of contempt.
Where does this leave Christians? Jesus said,
'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6).
And the apostle Peter said,
'It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:10-12).
People who teach a tolerance of all beliefs almost invariably oppose Christianity. They cannot tolerate Christians saying, "Here's what's right and here's what wrong. God says it. And so that is final." They reply, Oh, no. We can't tolerate that. We've got to tolerate all beliefs."
What are they really doing? They are being intolerant of the absolutes of Christianity, because the absolutes of Christianity oppose a philosophy that says, "Everything can be done in accord with one's own opinion." It is not difficult to see that this popular philosophy is an anti-biblical way of thinking--so dangerous, in fact, that it could one day lead to the outlawing of Christianity.
There is yet another sad aspect to the philosophy that all people have a right to their own opinions. Not only is this being emphasized in our public education system, but it is reaching out from there and permeating all parts of our society, even our churches.
What happens today when churches address issues like abortion, homosexuality, women's role in the church, and so on? All too often, Christians are simply offering lots of different opinions, eagerly expressing their own ideas and beliefs. Often their leaders participate by merely summarizing these differing viewpoints and stopping short of supplying a definite conclusion about what is right or wrong according to God's Word.
The wonderful truth is that, as Christians, we can base our lives on something much more substantial than mere personal opinions! We have foundational knowledge from an Infinite Being, our Creator, to guide us. The record of this basic knowledge begins in the most foundational of all books, Genesis. Our Creator has not left us to find our own way; he has provided directions and specific principles by which to live. Christian leaders should be reminding people that God owns us and therefore sets the rules. What he says must be the basis for all our thinking and behavior.
Christian author and speaker Josh McDowell reminds followers of Christ that,
We must humbly pursue truth. It may be difficult to speak the truth in today's climate, but Jesus said,
"The truth will set you free."
Pursuing truth in this context means countering the new doctrine of tolerance. It means teaching our children to embrace all people, but not all beliefs. It means showing them how to listen to and learn from all people without necessarily agreeing with them. It means helping them courageously but humbly speak the truth, even if it makes them the object of scorn or hatred.
We must always remember, however, that when the apostle Peter told us,
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have," he added, "But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
We must aggressively practice love. Everyone loves love, it seems, but few recognize how incompatible love is with the new tolerance. Tolerance simply avoids offending someone; we must help our children live in love, which actively seeks to promote the good of another person.
Tolerance says, "You must approve of what I do."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me."
Tolerance says, "You must agree with me."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced 'the truth will set you free.' "
Tolerance says, "You must allow me to have my way."
Love responds, "I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk."
Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.
I believe the dreadful potential of the new tolerance can be averted, but only with a renewed commitment to truth, justice and love. And, as it happens, that powerful trio of virtues can do more than prevent disaster; it can bring about true community and culture in the midst of diversity and disagreement.