Let me start with this: this post may be controversial. If you want to talk, let’s dialogue. If you want to argue or fight…please do us both a favor and just skip it.
Tolerance and acceptance are not the same thing. The distinction between them, while seemingly subtle, is incredibly profound. The terms are not synonymous. They are in fact mutually exclusive. Tolerance is a freedom from prejudice or bigotry. When you are tolerant of something or someone there is an implied disagreement in either opinion or behavior. If you agreed there would be no need for tolerance.
When what we are talking about is a lifestyle, to accept a different lifestyle would be to conform your life to it. To tolerate a different lifestyle would be to live at peace with the person who lives differently without conforming yourself to their way of life. If what we are talking about is a belief or system of beliefs tolerance would be to co-exist in relative community/harmony with people of other beliefs/systems of beliefs. Acceptance on the other hand would be to begin the conversion process. Tolerance is perhaps best characterized as an intellectual, relational, or practical “agree to disagree” position. Acceptance is more of a “where do I sign up” response.
Christians get called hypocrites a lot. Some of that is fair because of how “Christians” present themselves. The simple fact is most of the problems in the church we have brought on ourselves. In this one area however, I would say our reputation is unmerited. We are not any more or less hypocritical than people outside the church. Most of the time people call us hypocrites because it is easier to throw a label on us and ignore us then it is to consider the ramifications of what we have to say. The Christian faith is after all an uncomfortable thing to be presented with. I mean that only to say, we are unique in our exclusivity. Most religions have moved toward a certain degree of universalism (more than one way to God, you can believe whatever you war just believe something, it’s not what you believe but how good of a person you are). Christianity remains one of the few that states there is only one way to God. That is an uncomfortable reality to face in a culture that is deliriously obsessed with options and choices. I digress.
Christians aren’t the only hypocrites. Every person who has brushed us off with a simple label could rightly be accused of the same. Recent events however have made clear than one of the most hypocritical groups is a group that champions the cause of acceptance. The pro gay community. Before you lash back on this, hear my heart: I am not even slightly homophobic. I have numerous friends who are gay. If you doubt my sincere love for gay people, I’d invite you to speak with them. They will be my witnesses. I don’t treat people differently, care for them less, or behave differently around them because of their sexual orientation. It is not my intention to rock the boat of this already heated debate. The issue I bring up is really not even with being gay but with how the homosexual community acts towards others.
The homosexual community is one of the most militantly tolerant groups out there. They promote, demand, and expect tolerance. Nothing wrong with that. Preaching tolerance is great but it has to go both ways. It’s fair that the lesbian/gay/bi community wants to be tolerated. In my mind they should be. We need to understand that TOLERANCE is not agreement. Tolerance is by definition disagreement. It is however a peaceful,respectful,loving,caring,gracious disagreement. To ask a Christian to be tolerant of other religions and lifestyles is I believe fitting with the Gospel. Jesus didn’t tell us we could choose not to love people based on their faith, skin color, background, or sexual orientation. Therefore we are to love and care for all people. Prejudice isn’t love. Intolerance isn’t love. To ask a Christian to accept other religions/lifestyles is to ask us to reject the foundation of who we are and what we believe.
It’s like saying: “you have to accept us because we aren’t going to tolerate you.” As Christians we believe that Jesus is the way to life. Not one of many. The only way. We should be tolerant of those who do not hold this position. We should love people who don’t hold this position. It is however what we believe. What we should rightly be able to ask in return is for the same tolerance. You may not agree that Jesus is the only way. You don’t have to accept our position. You can however tolerate it. Realize that we believe differently and our actions and beliefs about certain issues are going to be dictated by our core faith in Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just save us. He gives us instructions for life. He shares with us how He feels about certain things.
We cannot accept certain beliefs/lifestyles. By that I mean we cannot place our seal of approval on them or conform our life to them because we believe they are not approved by God. When asked, we share this opinion. We are not pro-homosexual. That’s not because we are against people who are homosexual. Quite the opposite. It is because we believe that certain lifestyles or religions are detrimental. We don’t often express our heart clearly. For that we do need to apologize. The reason we take these seemingly “intolerant” stands is that we believe not doing so would be unloving. If you had a friend who was sick and you believed with all that you were that you could help them wouldn’t it be cruel to withhold that healing from them? Granted, the argument is slated. Hear it for what it is.
Now it is not the job of the Christian to determine who gets into Heaven. We are not the judge. So don’t ask us to be. We can know, at least in part, what God approves of and what He doesn’t. What we don’t know is where HE draws the line. To ask a Christian if someone can be saved if _______ is kind of like asking you dinner if it will give you food poisoning.
To get mad at or treat a Christian differently because we believe what we read in the Bible is an act of intolerance and prejudice. It is a rejection of the tolerance. Those who tend to call Christians hypocrites typically do so because they don’t feel we are tolerant. How does being intolerant of a group who believes things a certain way make one tolerant? Isn’t that at it’s core a failure to practice what one preaches?
Here’s my point: we need more tolerance. The Christian community needs to learn to accept the fact that we don’t agree with people of other faiths/lifestyles and instead of arguing, move on to loving. Fighting isn’t helping. To the Christian I say this: you can’t tell people about the love of Jesus if you are acting like a raving lunatic. You want to talk about the love of Jesus, why don’t you start by showing it.We need to tolerate those who do not believe as we do and treat them with the love, respect, and compassion that Jesus gives us. The non-Christian community whether gay/straight atheist/muslim/any other religion you should offer the same tolerance towards us.
It’s time that we stopped taking sniper shots at each other. No one is winning these little bouts. All we are doing is filling the world with more hate. Christians look less like Jesus. Everyone else looks less like the ideal they claim to follow. We are different. It’s not our job to be the same. It’s our job to love.
To my Christian readership: it’s not your job to save people. It’s not your job to change people. It’s your job to love people and tell them about Jesus. The best way to do that is to love them the way He loves you. You do your job. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
To my non-Christian readership: please bear with us. We mean well. We just don’t always know how to express what is in our hearts. Perhaps, instead of just demanding tolerance, you could show us how to be more tolerant by leading the way. You don’t have to agree with us, but tolerate our perspective.
Grace and peace