Tag Archives: Tolerance

Anger Does Not Bring Righteousness

Recently I have been frustrated and upset by statements on blogs and in the media, as well as comments in both places, that show a hatred of Christians and Christianity. Some of this comes from ignorance about what Christians truly believe or how Christ has called us to live in the world. We are called stupid and intolerant, even hate mongers. Our beliefs are ridiculed as myth or worse, and it is suggested that no one with half a brain could actually be a Christian and believe that the Bible is really the Word of God.

My first instinct is to respond with my own comments about how wrong those who attack Christianity are. I feel angry, but I know bitterness and an angry response would not be pleasing to God. So I slow down and seek the counsel of wise Christians who remind me that what I am called to do is love even those who hate me and are my enemies.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28.

Then I pray and ask God for wisdom. He reminds me that He warned us this would happen:

[Jesus said,] “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. John 15:18-21.

I am also reminded that being hated because I cling to Him is not a bad thing in the long run. In His famous beatitudes, Jesus said:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. Luke 6:22-23.

Sometimes the lessons I must learn are difficult and challenging to my heart and soul. My sinful nature tries to take over and wants to pay back what has been dished out to me. My pride swells up and I become indignant over the accusation that I am not intelligent because I believe in God. I did, after all, graduate from law school cum laude. I went to a very prestigious college and graduated in the top 11% of my class. I am an excellent writer, and my logic and reasoning skills are superb. How dare someone suggest that I am stupid because of what I believe about the origin of the universe and who Jesus is! They are the stupid ones and I could prove them . . .

But that is not the Godly way. As James pointed out, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20. This verse is actually my screen saver on my computer at work, and for good reason because I need to be reminded of it regularly. What I need to remember, too, is that those who attack Christians are lost. They don’t know God, but God knows them and wants to have a relationship with them. “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. My own pride and indignation will not further His goal. Only love can accomplish it.

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Legal, Social, and Absolute Tolerance

Much of the day yesterday I contemplated what I would write today, and whether I would relate today’s post in any way to the fact that it is the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. There is much controversy in the news surrounding this date because of the proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero and the “pastor” in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Qur’an. As all this swirled in my head, my thoughts kept returning to something I posted back in January. Ultimately, I decided to repost that entry, with this introduction and a few edits. (The chart below is new, too).

In recent news, I read a quote from the imam who is planning the Muslim center in New York (which I unfortunately can’t find now), but it was something to the effect that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all worship the same God, that there is really no difference between us. He quoted the beatitudes of Jesus as recorded in the Bible to say, “Blessed are the  peacemakers.” Although Muslims do not accept the Bible as accurate, he was willing to quote the words of Jesus from the Bible to suit his argument. He was, in essence, espousing the doctrine of relativism.

Relativism has become a popular doctrine in our society today. According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, relativism is “the doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’ — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.” We are told by society that we must be tolerant of other religious beliefs. And when they say “tolerant,” those who subscribe to the doctrine of relativism mean we must agree that the religious beliefs of others who believe differently than we do are equally true.

I am not one of those who subscribes to the doctrine of relativism. If two beliefs are directly contradictory, then they cannot both be true. If I believe a marble is white through and through, and you believe it is green through and through, only one of us can be right. If I believe the soul of a person lives one life here on earth, and then continues to exist in eternity either in Heaven (in the presence of God) or in Hell (without God); and you believe that the soul of a person is reincarnated into multiple new persons over many centuries until it finally reaches perfection; then we can’t both be right. I am willing to admit that I might be the one who is wrong, but I refuse to believe we can both be right.

In the case of Muslims and Christians, our beliefs are very different and contradictory. Although there are some things both believe, here is a comparison of what I see as the most striking and important differences between the two.

Christianity Islam
Jesus is God incarnate, called Immanuel (God with us) Jesus was just a prophet
Jesus died on the cross for our sins Jesus did not die on the cross
Jesus was resurrected on the third day Jesus was not resurrected
All who believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus are saved and go to Heaven when they die If a person serves God and obeys His will they will be saved and taken to live in Paradise forever
Believers are saved by grace and God receives all the glory for salvation Believers are saved by their deeds and good works and man receives the glory for salvation
The Bible is God’s Holy Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through a diverse group of authors over thousands of years The Bible has been corrupted, and the Qur’an, given to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel, is God’s Holy Word

Islam is a very legalistic religion in which one earns their way to Paradise by observing the five pillars of Islam and being a good person. Christianity is a religion of unmerited grace and mercy based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. (There are, unfortunately, some Christian denominations that have lost sight of the grace of the Gospel and become almost as legalistic as Islam, but they do not represent the true core of the Christian belief that Christ died to pay our debt.)

It is illogical to me to say that both of these beliefs are right because they are directly contradictory. I am a Christian and believe in the basic tenets of Christianity, as set forth in the Apostles’ Creed. I have studied the Bible and had life experiences that have led me to this belief. I have also studied other world religions, though I have not read all of their holy books, but believe that I have found a true and lasting relationship with my Creator in Jesus Christ. I could be wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Muslims (or the Buddhists, or the Hindus) have it right. I don’t think they do, because if they do then I, along with all of humanity, am doomed as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. But unless we are honest about the differences between our beliefs, and are willing to explore those beliefs, how will we ever be sure? In the search for Truth, I find the doctrine of relativism neither rational nor helpful. It negates the need to fully understand and explore one’s own beliefs because it doesn’t matter if they are really the Truth; it is enough that my beliefs are true for me.

I also don’t believe one must be a relativist to be tolerant. I once read an interesting take on tolerance that I will try to summarize here. According to the author, there are three levels of tolerance:

1. Legal tolerance is the idea that every person has a legal right to believe whatever they choose and to not be discriminated against because of what they believe.

2. Social tolerance is the idea that one is morally obligated in a free society to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs.

3. Absolute tolerance is relativism and is the idea that to be tolerant I must agree that whatever anyone believes is equally as true as what I believe, or at least that it is true for them.

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea of legal tolerance and believe it is the foundation of our great nation. I also completely agree that social tolerance is absolutely essential in any civil society and strive to put it into practice in my daily life. But absolute tolerance goes beyond what I can agree with. It is not necessary or helpful for a free, civil society to insist upon absolute tolerance. I also believe that absolute tolerance negates social tolerance, because to say that what I believe to be the Truth is not really the Truth, but only one of many truths, does not treat me with respect or dignity, whether I am Christian, Muslim, or something else.

You may agree with what I have stated in this blog as my beliefs, or you may disagree and believe something different. I will always uphold your legal right to believe as you choose and treat you with respect and dignity as a person regardless of whether we agree. I can gladly agree to disagree. But if what you believe directly contradicts what I believe about the nature of God and the means of salvation, please don’t ask me to accept that we are both right.

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The Perfect Balance of Truth and Love

Six weeks ago today we planted grass seed in our front yard. My husband worked hard to prepare the soil and roll it flat. We scattered the seed and covered it with peat moss to protect it. The forecast called for partly sunny and partly rainy weather, perfect for growing grass seed.

But then the rains came, breaking records for May and June in the Portland area. There were days when it simply poured, and we saw very little sun. Some of the grass seed was washed into my driveway. After three weeks of rain, the weather report came that we were going to have seven days of no rain, so we scattered some additional seed in the rivulets of bare dirt hoping it would take root and fill in those spots. But then it rained and hailed for the next three days and all of that extra seed was washed into my driveway.

We now have grass growing in most of the front yard, and if you view it as you come up the hill towards our house it looks  pretty good. But as you stand on the front porch it is clear that although there is grass growing, it is a bit sparse and there are a lot of unsprouted seeds throughout the yard. It is green but not thick enough to look like it would withstand a person walking across the lawn.

Looking at the “lawn” this morning got me thinking about the seeds of faith that have been sown in families and in churches over the years. There are certainly a number that have sprouted and grown, but there are just as many that seem to have drowned and failed to sprout, or have been washed away. In the case of my lawn, it was too much water and not enough sun that caused many seeds to not sprout. If I had planted in August and failed to water the lawn, I suspect a similar result would have occurred, but for a different reason. The seeds would have dried up and failed to sprout.

What is it that causes seeds of faith to not sprout and grow?

Often seeds of faith are drowned by legalism, drowned in the idea that we must earn our own salvation. The heavy burden of following every rule of the law leads to hopelessness and fear of never being good enough. The truth of what is sin in the eyes of God overshadows the grace of the gospel of Christ’s redeeming love; there is no balance between Truth and Love and faith is drowned.

Other times seeds of faith are dried up by tolerance disguised as love. There is no truth, which comes to us from the Holy Spirit, to provide the understanding of the gospel. The gospel of grace and mercy that are necessary for faith to grow are deemed unnecessary as all behavior and ideas are accepted as normal and acceptable. There is no balance between Love and Truth and faith is dried up.

For seeds of faith to grow we must know the Truth of our sinfulness and accept the Love of Christ that redeems us. The two must be balanced in the hearts of men and women for faith to sprout. Then those sprouts of faith must be nourished with the Word of God for them to flourish and grow strong. The apostle Paul stated the necessary balance perfectly in his letters to the churches in Rome and Ephesus:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9.

In our society today, and even in some of our churches, the two necessary ingredients for faith to grow have become out of balance. Legalism and unfettered Grace abound. Jesus become unnecessary to many because they either believe they can earn their own salvation or that they are not in need of a savior. To these lost ones, Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

What is the means by which we can obtain a balance of Truth and Love so that our faith might sprout and grow? By being grounded in the Word of God, the whole Word.

There is a great song by the O.C. Supertones called Grounded. It’s kind of a hip hop song, which is not usually my favorite type of music. But I love the boldness of the lyrics. The chorus is great, and the final verse is my favorite:

Grounded by O.C. Supertones

Chorus

Hoo, Hah.
How will you stand
if you don’t understand?

Hoo, Hah.
Fight like a man, scriptures in hand.

Verse

Kids in universities,
drowning in an ocean
of apostate philosophy.
We need apologetic instruction,
mental reconstruction.
Ignorance reduction,
to halt the mass abduction.
Evangelical mind
has been scandalized.
Wisdom and truth
have been vandalized,
by the unevangelized.
No truth in a world
that’s randomized.
Expose the lies
no matter how they’re disguised.

That we must or can earn our own salvation, or that we don’t need saving, are lies. Those who teach these doctrines in the name of Christianity are guilty of apostasy. They have abandoned the core tenants of the Christian faith. This made me realize how important it is to teach the balance of Truth and Love, the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ, to my own son and to share it with my family and friends. Those of us in whom the seeds of faith of sprouted and grown must provide both water and sunlight to help the seeds of faith grow in those whom God puts in our path.

Perhaps if we can keep showering Truth and Love in perfect balance through the Word of God on the seeds of faith around us, the “lawn” of believers that make up the Church will grow full and strong.

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Tolerance Does Not Always Equal Love

I was reading the blog of a 20-something Christian woman this morning. She had written a couple of articles on tolerance that I found very interesting. We live in a culture where tolerance of whatever anyone wants to believe or do is considered the most important virtue. But this young woman argued that complete tolerance is the opposite of true love. I thought this line of her article in particular made a great point:

“Where Tolerance will let you do as you like though it will destroy you, Love won’t agree with or approve of the things you do, but will die for you anyway.”  Thorns and Myrtles.

If you are a parent, consider this. Your child wants to eat nothing but sweets and candy because she believes they are the best and tastiest food. “Vegetables, after all, are just gross,” she says. As a parent, you have two choices. You can tolerate your child’s behavior, or you can tell your child she is wrong and that she must eat her vegetables, fruits, and grains. The wisdom of our culture would dictate that it is unfair for you to tell her what is right and wrong, but love tells a different story. If you care about and love your child, you must choose the second option. Tolerance is not an option for the loving parent because to allow the child to eat only sweets and candy will cause them serious health problems.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I can tolerate him.” It’s not something you say about someone you care about or love. It’s something you say about someone who matters not to you in the least. He’s there, and that’s okay; but if he wasn’t, that would be just fine, too. So why do we value tolerance above true love? Real love, the type of love Jesus exhibited on the cross, is a love that wants what is best for others. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16. He laid down His life that we might be freed from bondage to sin, that we might enjoy the freedom of living as God intended us to live.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor. This is the second commandment after loving God. We are to love our neighbors as Jesus loved us. We can learn something about how Jesus loved us from the story of the woman caught in adultery as recorded in John ch. 8. After suggesting that he who was without sin should cast the first stone at her (stoning being the punishment for adultery), and everyone having dropped their stones to the ground and walked away, Jesus spoke to the woman: 

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11.

Do you see what He said at the end? “Leave your life of sin.” The love of Jesus involved an understanding of right and wrong, of what was sinful, and He asks those who follow Him to leave their life of unrepentant sin. Jesus did not tolerate this woman’s behavior in the sense that we use the word tolerance today. But He did love her with a love Divine. With a love that is greater than all the tolerance the world can muster.

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It’s All Relative . . . Or Is It?

Relativism has become a popular doctrine in our society today. According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, relativism is “the doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’ — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.” We are told by society that we must be tolerant of other religious beliefs. And when they say “tolerant,” those who subscribe to the doctrine of relativism mean we must agree that the religious beliefs of others who believe differently than we do are equally true.

I am not one of those who subscribes to the doctrine of relativism. If two beliefs are directly contradictory, then they cannot both be true. If I believe a marble is white through and through, and you believe it is green through and through, only one of us can be right. If I believe the soul of a person lives one life here on earth, and then continues to exist in eternity either in Heaven (in the presence of God) or in Hell (without God); and you believe that the soul of a person is reincarnated into multiple new persons over many centuries until it finally reaches perfection; then we can’t both be right. I am willing to admit that I might be the one who is wrong, but I refuse to believe we can both be right.

In the search for Truth, I find the doctrine of relativism neither rational nor helpful. It negates the need to fully understand and explore one’s own beliefs because it doesn’t matter if they are really the Truth; it is enough that my beliefs are true for me.

I also don’t believe one must be a relativist to be tolerant. I once read an interesting take on tolerance that I will try to summarize here. According to the author, there are three levels of tolerance:

1. Legal tolerance is the idea that every person has a legal right to believe whatever they choose and to not be discriminated against because of what they believe.

2. Social tolerance is the idea that one is morally obligated in a free society to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs.

3. Absolute tolerance is relativism and is the idea that to be tolerant I must agree that whatever anyone believes is equally as true as what I believe, or at least that it is true for them.

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea of legal tolerance and believe it is the foundation of our great nation. I also completely agree that social tolerance is absolutely essential in any civil society and strive to put it into practice in my daily life. But absolute tolerance goes beyond what I can agree with. It is not necessary or helpful for a free, civil society to insist upon absolute tolerance. I also believe that absolute tolerance negates social tolerance, because to say that what I believe is the Truth is not really the Truth, but only one of many truths, does not treat me with respect or dignity.

You may agree with what I have stated in this blog as my beliefs, or you may disagree and believe something different. I will always uphold your right to believe as you choose and treat you with respect and dignity as a person regardless of whether we agree. I can gladly agree to disagree. But if what you believe directly contradicts what I believe, please don’t ask me to accept that we are both right.

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