My awesome church--where I have attended and served for a little over a year now--is in the middle of a series called "The Reason for God". It has really been a great series. I have especially enjoyed the life group discussions that we have been able to have as a result of this series!

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am opinionated and like to explore and discuss things. For the past two weeks the subject of absolute truth has arisen. I agree that in the absence of absolute truth there is chaos. I agree with and embrace Jesus' admonition that he is the way, the truth and the life. I further agree that these exclusive claims seem as troubling to folks who do not embrace Christianity as they would to me as a Christian who is not a Hindu, Muslim or Atheist.

When speaking about absolute truth, we make the enemy (or antithesis) of absolute truth tolerance. However, the opposite of absolute truth is truth relativism. Truth relativism says that there is no absolute truth (to be overly general). Tolerance--on the other hand--is freedom from bigotry. Christians are often very strident and arrogant.

We act as if we live in a world where we have to approve of folks. We assume that we must either permit or prohibit folks from living their lives--whether they profess a faith in Christ or not. We are not called to be the moral police of the world. We are not to be "Junior Holy Spirit", as my dear friend Jeniffer would say. We are not. We are not the convictor of folks. We are not the judge of folks. We are not. We do not get to dictate to the masses what we will and will not tolerate based on our beliefs. Granted, there are social mores that we as a society expect to be adhered to. But, we do not live in a theocracy, Christian or otherwise and praise God for that! (Salem witch trials, anyone...)

What is my point? Be tolerant. Don't be strident. Tolerance does not say that there is absolute truth. Tolerance does not say that I believe as you believe. Tolerance says, even in my disagreement I will love and not judge you. Tolerance says that I may not think that you are striving for the highest or the best but take my hand and let's walk together.

A college friend of mine (I attended a fairly conservative bible college) said that he is not sure that tolerance is a Christian virtue. I replied, "I am not sure that it is not." Now, I know that he is tolerant (as are most of my Christian friends) because they tolerate me and my--often liberal and opposing-- views. Does he agree with them? Heavens no. But he tolerates my right to have them. They tolerate my different interpretation from them. Now, I am sure that some of them have written me off as unchristian (well, probably not any of my legit friends) but I know some of my facebook "friends" have.

Here is what I know, we make concessions and are tolerant everyday (as well we should). Tolerance should not be a swear word for Christian. I am a lover of Jesus. I am tolerant. I am proud.

I know that I don't take opposing views for the sake of being contrary (as I have been accused) but because I have this deep conviction. I love people. I love justice and I will never again go along to get along. I will never again keep quiet in the face of injustice and oppression. I will never passively go along with something because I kept quiet. I did that for far too long.

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Bethany Oakes said...

The tricky thing with using the word "tolerance" is that everyone has their own definition of what tolerance is and what it should be. I feel like that word has a certain stigma attached to it that not everyone would want to be associated with. For some it's the same as insulting their mother and for others it's the highest compliment you could give them.

Ray McKinnon said...

I agree. For me it is the highest compliment that you can pay me. I legit agree, though. Which is why I tried to lay out what my definition of the word. Love you Bethy!

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