The word 'intolerance' has become synonymous with hate and no wonder. Unspeakable crimes against humanity have been committed as the result of it. But I believe there is another side to intolerance.
What many people don't know is my mom was intolerant; she refused to put up with backtalk. As a result, our home was free of the parental disrespect that has become so commonplace today.
My friend, Sharon Rohrbach, was also intolerant. She couldn't sleep at night thinking about the babies being discharged to homes that weren't equipped to care for them. Sharon's intolerance led her to start Nurses for Newborns, a foundation dedicated to protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.
American women were also intolerant. They couldn't abide the injustice of the denial of their right to vote. Many of our foremothers worked tirelessly to gain suffrage.
I'm thankful for my mom's intolerance that taught me to respect authority, for Sharon's intolerance which taught me to be concerned for at-risk newborns, and for a heritage of women's intolerance that gave me the right to vote.
But I am most thankful for our intolerant God. While it is true that He could not ignore our sin, it is also true that He could not tolerate the consequence of that sin–our eternal separation from Him.
What is the difference between this kind of intolerance and the kind that gets all the press today? The former is motivated by love.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. (John 3:16)
In our culture, this message is being communicated with increasing fervor. The drum beat has been taken up by every group, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. The thing is, we're all correct. We are ALL doing something wrong.
As tension over these differences increases (and it IS increasing all around the world), I don't believe the answer is to say there is no such thing as right and wrong. After all, that would be suggesting it's WRONG to believe in right and wrong. Don't worry. You haven't ended up in a college philosophy class by mistake. My point is simply this: we will never effect change by trying to convince people to adopt our version of what is right and wrong. We CAN change the world by the solution we offer, however.
Jesus didn't spend his ministry time trying to convince people that sin was sin. Instead, He offered a solution for it: Himself. I remember counseling a young woman who had recently become a Christian. Her concern was that she had to quit doing everything she was currently doing. She felt she had to listen to different music, watch different movies (if she watched them at all), quit going to the same places where her unbelieving friends were and on and on. Not surprisingly, she was not joyful about hearing the Good News! In fact, the Gospel for her was more bad news: she was a sinner and everything she wanted to do was sinful.
If we aren't careful, we can change the Good News into bad news for the people we witness to. Are we spending our time talking about how sinful and wrong people are being? (As if this were news anyway!) Or are we sharing the Savior who gives us the want to and not the have to change our sinful ways.
In his book, The Life of Trust, George Muller shares the story of a godly man who paid for the education of promising young men. One particular college student was known to be a brilliant debater and an unbeliever. The older benefactor invited the young man to live with him while he went to school, and provided all of his meals for him as well. Knowing the young man's desire to take him on in matters of faith, he avoided the discussion for months. Instead, he lovingly served him by making sure he had a warm meal and light to study by each evening. Finally, the young man was so flabberghasted by his benefactor's loving treatment that he asked, "Why are you treating me this way? I don't understand!" The kindly man told him it was because of what Jesus had done for him and if he wanted to know more, he could read the book of John. He did so and came to share the joy his benefactor had in experiencing the Good News.
May the Lord enable us to be loving reminders, not of all we're doing wrong, but all that the Savior has done right for undeserving sinners like us.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1)