I was at a church for a wedding yesterday. A sign posted on the chain link fence as you left this urban parking lot brought a smile to my face: “You are entering the mission field”. Wow!! What a great reminder as the attenders left each time to bring the Good News to the world outside the church. As I walked through the gate, I then noticed another sign on the outside of the fence as you faced the church: “Private Property: No Trespassing”. Huh…Seemed suddenly to be a bit of a mixed message.
The message to the congregation was spot on – go influence your world. The message to the neighborhood was an unintended consequence of trying to protect the church building – it said “Go away – you’re not welcome.” While the sign was probably the result of a good stewardship practice – protect what we have been given - it highlights how difficult it can be to communicate well to the world around us, when they don’t have the context we have.
The same can be said of the “Tolerance” debate. Without a Biblical context, our words are easily misconstrued – or deliberately twisted – because our increasingly secular society lacks the biblical grounding to engage conversation from a context of God our Creator. For many Christians, this is ample excuse to avoid the conversation in its entirety. But that is giving in, passively, to tolerance.
While it may be easy for you to see the hypocrisy of the Tolerance folks when they become intolerant of any message even slightly different from their “everything goes” belief system, it is surprisingly difficult for people inside this world view to see it so clearly. Since a favorite tactic is to characterize Christian love as “hate”, I like to approach the topic as a continuum. That continuum is from hate, to tolerance, to love.
Hate is easy to engage. People can readily describe it because we’ve all experienced it. Make sure your discussion covers the motives of a hater. Those motive are selfish, and designed to use or take from another for personal gain. Compared to hate, tolerance is truly a breath of fresh air. Compared to hate, indifference looks pretty good, too! Tolerance does not hate – at least not overtly. When in deep pain, the simple acceptance offered by tolerance can be a welcome respite. Even I would choose tolerance over hate if that was the only choice. And that’s the key to the conversation. The tolerance folks want you to believe that tolerance is the end-all. That there is nothing better. But they are wrong.
You see, tolerance requires nothing of you except to turn a blind eye. All but the most jaded could pick a hole in tolerance at this point. After all, how could you be so callous to allow a friend to continue down toward disaster? Tolerance is a weak and mediocre substitute for how we are treat each other. We are called to a higher standard than tolerance, called love.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT) Love requires action and involvement – for the sake of another. It costs something – tolerance does not. At times, it requires us to speak truth, as unpopular as it may be, for the sake of another. To accept tolerance as the highest state for mankind lowers the bar for all people to a mediocre existence. So raise the bar, and love those hard-to-love folks out there.
Give Hope. Give Life. Give Bibles!