Tolerance is one of the greatest virtues in our society today. We are to tolerate people’s life choices, profane language, and any other difference we may have. In some cases, people are very intolerant if you do anything less than celebrate a life choice that someone makes even if it stands directly opposed to Scriptural principles. We even have churches that will celebrate other religions so much that they will invite them in to participate with them in worship. Those other religions are treated as co-equal with Christianity because, after all, it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so long as you believe.
I have no problem seeking to understand the beliefs of other people. We need to understand each other. We need to show love to each other. When people make bad life choices we still need to love them. That being said what each of these people need is exactly what I need – the grace of God. When we accept, celebrate even, lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture do we not anger God? When we celebrate other religions as having beliefs equal to Christianity do we not cause anger also? Ezekiel recounted the words of God talking about the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. They too were open to the beliefs and alternate life styles of others. “When I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices, made offerings that aroused my anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured out their drink offerings.” (Ezekiel 3:28)
The sons of Israel entered the Promised Land and we see in these words some actions that may not have been mentioned directly in the historical writings. They immediately sought after the gods of the land. They didn’t hesitate to worship those other gods with their sacrifice and offerings. They, in fact, angered God. They celebrated the religions of the land that they came into rather than celebrating the God who had seen them through all the difficulties they had coming into the Promised Land. They failed to honor the God who had brought them into the Promised Land, or at least failed to honor Him exclusively. That’s the thing about God: there is no “I believe in God and…” anything. We are called to commit to Him, and Him alone. We are called to love people as He loves them. That doesn’t mean loving their sin, though. It means loving them and showing them the grace God has to forgive their sins. I don’t think it means beating people over the head with their sins, standing around with big signs condemning those sins, or attacking people with certain sins. I think it means showing them the love of God who forgives them because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Too often people feel the weight of condemnation for their sins. As Christians, we have been great about making people feel separated from God by emphasizing the terrible nature of their sins. Often, we do that so well that people think there is no hope; that God couldn’t love them because their sin is so bad. The key to helping people know the love of God is not showing tolerance and acceptance; the key is showing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness no matter what the sin may be. When we tolerate others, we leave them wallowing in life just like they were wallowing before. When we love them and show them the mercy of God that can forgive any sin, we give them the opportunity to get things right with God. Isn’t that what it means to bring the gospel of Jesus to others.
Oh Lord, I live in a splintered society that too often ignores Your mercy and grace. I know that because too often I am more willing to tolerate others than to love them and show them Your mercy. Give me the grace to be the witness You need me to be. Help me to love others as You love them.