With all the ado surrounding the CEO of Chick-Fil-A’s personal stance on traditional marriage we hear, quite loudly, cries for tolerance. But is tolerance what is really being demanded? No. I don’t think it is.
Let me first start with explaining what tolerance in this context, truly is. Tolerance is defined a few ways in Webster’s but in relation to this topic the one that best defines it is as follows:
2. a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own b : the act of allowing something
Essentially tolerance is the act of allowing others to believe and do certain things while those beliefs or actions conflict with our own. That is tolerance and I will argue Christians seem to have a corner on the market.
This is ironic I realize as we are the ones who are most often called “intolerant”. But we are not. We tolerate other religions. We tolerate the sinful behavior of our neighbor (and ourselves for that matter). We tolerate mockery and scorn. The list goes on…
Our tolerance however is called into question when we speak about the objective nature of things. When we make truth claims about how things are or how things are supposed to be we are automatically thought of as intolerant. And I don’t think I need to rattle off the list of objective truth claims found within the Christian system. I am taking for granted that most who read this will intuit my point.
But yes, our tolerance is called into question when we say things are 1. Right or 2. Wrong. When taking an unwavering stand on certain “hot button” topics it is thought of as intolerant. But if tolerance is understood as what is found in the above definition then taking a stand on something isn’t intolerant it is merely saying that with which we disagree is, well, what we disagree with. And if we think those things should change it still doesn’t follow that we aren’t tolerant of the thing in question. We are. This is made evident in the fact that Christians (in contemporary Western culture – and I think I am saying in all contemporary culture) are not putting people to death for worshiping false gods. We are not stoning people for what they are doing in their bedrooms. What we are doing however is saying false gods are evil and certain bedroom activity is sinful.
Pointing out that something is wrong and should come to an end doesn’t mean we are not tolerating it. What it does mean however is that we care. We care about people who are captive to false gods and the power of sin. We care deeply about them. If we are Christians we can’t help but care which leads me to why I am writing this in the first place. Which is this …
When people are crying out for tolerance what they really want is indifference. They want us not to care. They do want approval (which if we approve of any sinful behavior we as a people – Christians – have ceased to care) but over all they just don’t want us to care about them. People don’t want Christians caring about their sin, the state of their souls, or them in general. Because when we care it nags at their conscience.
They don’t want tolerance, they want apathy.
When people demand that Christians be tolerant what they are really saying is “stop caring.” Why do you care what people do in their bedrooms? Why do you care if people are Atheist or Mormon or Hindu? Why do you care? Why do you care? Why. Do. You. Care?
I would say ultimately because God cares and we being His people have been given hearts that reflect His own. And within those hearts is love and concern for all humanity. Yet we are being asked to do what is impossible. We are being asked not to care about the state of the lost world around us. And speaking of the lost world around us we can now revisit the idea of tolerance.
As I said above we are a very tolerant group. When we consider that everything “of the world” is antithetical to our worldview I’d say we are exceptionally tolerant. But we must not forget to point to the most tolerant of all. God.
Consider how entirely holy and perfect He is yet stands by and permits our rank sinfulness. He tolerates a lot. He is the most tolerant of all. But one day that tolerance will come to an end and only those who belong to Christ will then be tolerated for all eternity. This is why we care, and why the demand for apathy will go unheeded.
We will never cease caring for a lost and fallen world. We will continue to tolerate it but we will never stop caring.