Monday, September 15, 2008

Tolerance please...

It seems to me that we’ve forgotten how to be tolerant of each other in America. We yell and shout at our opponents rather than engaging them courteously. We assume the worst of the “enemy” camp. We’re sure that all that’s wrong with America is their fault. Is civility a thing of the past? Is rudeness here to stay? Does no one know how to share opposing views cordially?

It saddens me that so few are willing to show patience with their “enemies.” It grieves me that even the church, the one group that ought to know how to speak the truth in love, has joined in the yelling. Personal attacks against our detractors are not at all uncommon today. Angry, hateful words spill from our mouths when we get into it with “sinners.”

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10, NIV)

I want you to think for a moment about the effect of our harsh words.

The man struggling with homosexuality looks to the church and what does he hear? People shouting, in effect, “Go to hell!” And he turns his back on Jesus or runs off to some false church that okays his lifestyle. The woman who’s had an abortion. Does she hear the same thing? I know some are working quietly behind the scenes to help those hurt by abortion, but they’re seldom noticed, seldom heard above the screaming. “Abortion’s wrong! Murderer! Go to hell!”

Can we be frank? Our angry speeches are damning some. We are giving sinners no hope. We offer only condemnation. Does this bother anyone but me?

I’m not suggesting that homosexuality isn’t sinful. It is. As sinful as sinful can be. I’m not suggesting that abortion isn’t murder. It is. As wrong as wrong can be. I’m not going soft on sin.

But I am trying to take it easy on sinners caught in Satan’s trap. The homosexual offender is not going to be won to Christ by anger, but by love. Jesus asks us to care for him when he’s dying from AIDS. Our Master asks us to speak kindly to him, addressing him as we would a man not as if he’s a dog that’s pooped on our carpet.

“Bad dog! Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad dog! Out! Get out and stay out!”

Our dear Savior, Jesus, loves every gay man, every lesbian woman. He died on the cross for them and for every other sinner. Jesus died for women who have had abortions. He loved them that much. He died for unmarried couples living together. He loved them that much. He died for greedy folks and gossips. He loved them that much. He died drunken sailors. He loved them that much. He died for you and me. He loved us that much.

Jesus is the only hope for sinful men and women – the liar’s hope, the swindler’s hope, the backstabber’s hope, the persecutor’s hope, the murder’s hope, the jealous man’s hope. Jesus!

“I am the way and the truth and the life,” our Savior told his disciples. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

If we’re shouting angrily at our “enemies,” they won’t hear our pleas to follow the way, to accept the truth, to receive the life.

This isn’t about Coke or Pepsi or some other trivial difference. It’s about life or death. It’s about eternal life, eternal death. Surely, with so much on the line, we can learn to be a bit more tolerant of others, a little more gracious in our speech, a little gentler in our arguments.

Can we be charitable without condoning sin? Can we show love and still hold firm on biblical values? Can we gently instruct and see people come to freedom in Christ? The answer to all these questions is Yes!

I’ll tell you a story later this week that shows that to be true.

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