I recently had a conversation with a man who asked…
“Why are you Christians so intolerant?”
I said, “I’ll answer that but first tell me what you mean.”
He said, “Well I constantly hear about Christians who are judging others and try to tell others what is right and wrong. Why can’t you guys just accept other people’s viewpoints…it’s so intolerant!”
To which I said, “So what you’re saying is that whenever someone tells someone else their viewpoint is wrong that is intolerant and it should stop?”
He said, “Yes”.
I then politely pointed out that he was doing the very thing right then that he was accusing me and other Christians of. He was saying that another person’s viewpoint (mine/Christians) was wrong and that we should accept his viewpoint.
Now I’ve known this guy for awhile and I know he was asking the question sincerely but he felt the need to quickly apologize even though I told him that wasn’t necessary. We then went on to have a great conversation about how the definition of tolerance has become distorted in America. First, I’ll start with the dictionary definition of tolerance and then share some of the things I shared with him.
Webster’s DictionaryTolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
Look at that again. By it’s very definition, tolerance means there will be conflicting viewpoints and that’s OK. For example, I’m a huge fan of the Redskins and Capitals which is a bit of a problem when you live in an area that is filled with Steelers and Penguins fans. If I were a fan of the Steelers and Penguins then no one would have to tolerate my like of REAL teams (FYI tongue firmly in cheek when looking at this year’s standings). What I’m saying is, tolerance is only needed when there are conflicting points of view.
What our society however has tried to make tolerance into is that not only must we accept each others point of view but that we must also accept that each others point of view is equally valid or truthful. This is then where we must look at the difference between relative truth and absolute truth.
Relative truth says that what may be true for you may not be true for me. It is what many people want we they say the word tolerance. “You live your life, I’ll live my life and we won’t judge each other”.
Absolute truth on the other hand says that there are certain things that are true for all people, at all times and in all places. Examples would be gravity, that you need oxygen to breath, that you can’t have a stick with one end, that 2+2=4. With absolute truth, you can sincerely believe that gravity won’t impact you or that 2+2=7 but that just makes you sincerely wrong. Now I can tolerate you having the wrong answer but that doesn’t mean it’s still not wrong.
Think of it this way, if your 1st grader kept insisting that 2+2=7 wouldn’t the most loving thing for you to do is try to correct them? Would anyone accuse you of being intolerant? Of being judgmental? No of course not…you want what’s best for someone that you love.
With that being said, Christians truly believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, was crucified for our sins and came back to life just as He said He would. We also believe Him when He says that He is truth and that NO ONE can come into a relationship with God except through Him. We also take serious His command that we are to teach others all that he taught us.
Now why we believe everything in the previous paragraph is the subject of an entire other post but hopefully you can see now why Christians feel obligated to speak out about moral issues. It’s not because we don’t love you…it’s because we do love you. We accept that you have a differing point of view (that’s tolerance) but at the same time want to lovingly point out that there is a better way because 2+2 does not equal 7.
Now I’ll be honest, how some Christians go about doing this can be wrong…we are instructed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth but do it in love. So, I apologize to some of you who have been hurt by Christians who violated this principle. However, I hope you see that the intentions behind it are pure…not based on something that is our opinion but rather instead on something based on truth.
Again, I know some of you are saying that it may not be true so I’ll have to blog about the why’s in the future. I’ll just say this for now. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 20 years old…in investigating the claims of Jesus/the Bible I eventually got to the point that the evidence was so overwhelming that it was all true that it actually would have taken me more faith to believe it not to be true than to believe it is.
One last thought. If you think that Jesus was tolerant based on our society’s definition, then please read the Gospel’s. Constantly Jesus was pointing out the sin and error of people’s ways and telling them to change. However, He does this not so that people would feel condemned but rather so they would turn to Him for the forgiveness of sin. He then instructs us His followers to do likewise. My point being this…while some Christians want to categorize sins into “the big ones” and the “small ones “, to God all sin is sin and the purpose of sin being pointed out isn’t to make you feel bad but so you turn to Jesus for forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins to God He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all of our unrighteousness”. -1 John 1:9
“Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.- Romans 8:1
“If you love me then you will obey what I command” (Jesus) –John 14:15