It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our world today is more divided and fractured than it ever has been. Take any topic, politics, sexual orientation, public education, global warming, even bathrooms, and you will find people on opposite sides vehemently opposed to each other. This antagonistic divisiveness has bled over into Christians and how they treat those with whom they disagree.
Some Christians will respond, echoing Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?” They will downplay or ignore altogether differences. They will protest differences don’t matter. They will plead we are all the same. They will say that we should ignore cultural and Biblical morals and not throw stones at each other.
Other Christians maintain that somethings are right, and some things are wrong. We don’t make this up, we follow God’s word in these matters. The assurance of correctness becomes their excuse for violence, hatred, bigotry, prejudice and a host of other evils. The ends, eliminating, or at least avoiding, evil justifies any means.
Let me make this perfectly clear. Both of these camps are wrong.
Followers of Jesus must learn the difference between acceptance and approval.
To do so, we need go only as far as Jesus.
During his ministry, Jesus made enemies. They were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both of them stood for things opposite of what Jesus came to preach. Jesus pointed people to His heavenly Father, they pointed people to ritual laws. Jesus came with compassion, they came with demands. Jesus healed the sick, the lame and raised the dead, they complained He shouldn’t be doing that. Jesus came as the Son of God, they killed Him because He was just that. Jesus accepts them. He doesn’t agree with them (read Matthew 23-25!) but at the same time He loves them for they are His children.
Jesus acceptance of his enemies is reflected in dining with them. In a time when dining with someone was a sign of respect, of closeness, of unity, Jesus repeatedly ate with his enemies. (Actually, in the
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Tolerance is realizing that we are no better than our enemies. We are just as messed up, we are just as big a train wreck, just as rebellious, just as sinful, as the next person. Jesus said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” The tolerant person confesses to God they have no right to throw a stone.
As followers we can live as Jesus lived. We can hold Biblical ground and say certain behaviors and attitudes are wrong (like violence and hatred against your enemies) and still be the people of God. Tolerance flows from acceptance which is grounded in the grace of God.
God’s grace is for all. Everyone. Christians sometimes think they get dispersal rights. God bestows his grace on sinners and saints alike. If Jesus is willing to die for those who hated him, if Jesus shares His grace with those I disagree with, who am I to do differently?
I have no illusions that if followers of Jesus started practicing tolerance for those with whom they disagree that the world will drastically change. That’s not the point. We show tolerance because Jesus does. We show tolerance because through it we just might get the right to share Jesus with someone. That will changes hearts, which is better anyway.