Tolerance

By: David New

It has become ever more popular, especially in my generation, to intentionally stop viewing the world as a black and white canvas. The answers to life’s mysteries are no longer simply right or wrong, but are instead made up of layers upon layers of nuance. So much so that it’s almost offensive now to declare an absolute. There is an agreed upon negative connotation associated with having a conviction so strong it causes a bit of narrow-mindedness. But despite all of this, I believe that it’s imperative that we remember there are certain truths that will never fail us.

Today, at least the day I’m writing this, is my two-year wedding anniversary. And as I look back, it truly is incomprehensible how I’ve come to this moment in my life both personally and professionally. When I think about our COVID wedding back in March 2020, with only her parents and a photographer in attendance, it humbles me to believe that someone could love me enough to promise to spend the rest of their life with me. And so far, she has kept her promise.

So, is that marriage? Counting down the days until divorce or death? The world tells us a lot of things about marriage, but even more things about divorce. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Countless romcoms start with a woman fresh out of a long-term relationship, ready to find and be swept off her feet by her actual forever romance. And the more twists and turns the love story has, the more we enjoy it. In fact, the simpler the love story, the rarer it is in pop culture. There are no blockbuster love stories where a man and woman fall in love with no drama and simply live happily together. What’s my point? Well, I think we as humans in this incredibly privileged time have romanticized the idea of struggle. We fabricate ideas of nuance in situations that don’t necessarily call for it. I brought up my marriage because I know in my heart there is no nuance to the promises I made to my wife that day. In fact, I am extremely intolerant of anything that might get in the way of those promises. There is no condition, no drama. I made a decision and now live the aftermath. Quite happily I might add. So why is this an important issue? Well, this idea directly translates to our faith.

I spoke last month about words. Specifically words we might not understand too well as believers. And this month I want to continue with that theme and dig into another word that will surely cause some to stop reading: Tolerance.

I know, I know, how dare I! After all, tolerance is the foundation of human cooperation. How could we hope to further the bridging of cultures and religions without tolerance?

To put it quite simply, I don’t care about those things. Or at least I don’t care about them in comparison to Christ.

Now please, before rolling your eyes, allow me to explain. There are many layers to the idea of tolerance. You should never be hateful or hurtful towards someone because they are different from you – the Scriptures make this quite plain. And I want to be clear that I am not at all arguing to go against this pillar of our faith. Instead, I’m pointing out that sometimes we as Christians, in an effort to maintain this idea of tolerance, have conceded the war of winning souls for the Kingdom. We use the excuse of nuance and tolerance to pardon those who don’t believe. And what is perhaps even worse, we use it to pardon ourselves from the mission of witnessing.

After all, how can I witness to someone who so kindly turned me down and was just so nice about it and…. maybe what they believe is okay? And who am I to try and change that and blah blah blah.

Friends, this is perhaps one of the most clever tactics of the enemy. The influence of sin on the world has convinced us that the risk of appearing intolerant by sharing the gospel somehow outweighs the potential for introducing others to Christ. We’re scared to witness and so we hide our cowardice behind our faux tolerance. In other words, we’re doing the work of the enemy, free of charge. And to make it even worse, we’ve somehow twisted our minds into thinking this makes us better Christians.

God has so graciously handed us the guidebook (literally) to eternal life. Who are we, as believers in Christ, to deny that gift to the world? Especially in the name of tolerance. Once again, I want to reiterate that tolerance is not a bad thing. But, when it gets in the way of Christ and the mission He has laid on our hearts, then it does become something that shifts our priorities out of whack. Our minds are no longer aligned with our hearts. We care too much about how we might appear and who we might upset. We care too much about being nice. We use tolerance and nuance as an excuse to be a lousy witness.

Tolerance to anything not from God is simply not good enough. You don’t really hear anyone say that for some reason. We walk a thin line as Christians. On one side, our Lord and Savior accompanied by the gift of eternity in paradise. On the other side, a temporary earthly life with the constant obsession of being accepted by your peers only to eventually die. Truly a compelling decision. Yet one so many of us struggle with. Friends, don’t let the cloud of earthly uncertainty deter you from our calling as believers and the eternal gift God has prepared for us.