Tolerance Revisited

A recent friend of mine made the following statement:

" I'm not one to quote scripture, or disparage another based completely on his/her religion, but to all my 'good Christians', the lord said "have no other god before me" it says nothing about not respecting others for their differences. 

I think we would all be better people for studying the varying religions of our neighbors. I'm not saying to take up their religion as your own, just open your eyes and learn a bit. After all, pretty much every religion shares the same cornerstone beliefs."

 My friend is one who is a pretty understanding guy. He would give you the shirt off of his back, but he has a very sharp tongue.  Maybe you can see why I like him so much. But what do we say about this as Christians? My friend is one who has been burned by some of that lingering stench from a legalistic prohibitionist society.  I have to say that even though I disagree with his perspective, I do feel some compassion for his sentiments.  I was once a postmodern thinker.  About a decade ago I would have heartily agreed with him.  I can identify with his strengths and his weaknesses. But is what he said true?

God did say that we should have no other gods before Him, but what is a god, and to what degree do we call our actions idolatry?  I personally believe that for one to commit idolatry they must put anything before God Almighty. These things are their little gods.  This is a hard thing to swallow, but how can we avoid idolatry?  The Bible teaches us that the only way to avoid idolatry and covetousness is to humble ourselves, confess our sins, and stand behind Jesus Christ.  He is our shield, fortress, and comforter.  Paul said that in whatever we do, we should glorify God.  I take that to mean that we should always keep God in the forefront of our minds no matter what we are doing.  Even if all we are doing is drinking a glass of water.

Should we respect others? Absolutely.  This is at the heart of what Jesus said when he said that we should love our enemies.  Does it mean that we should accept their beliefs?  I don't think so.  I believe it simply means that we are to love our enemies so much that we show them kindness even though we believe that they serve a false god. Romans 12 is classic on this.

Should we study other religions?  I don't think it is required, but if you were going to witness Jesus Christ to someone of another religion, it would be good to understand their perspective.  Nevertheless, I have found that Romans 12 displays one of the best witnessing tools: Unconditional Kindness.  This opens the door to share about the Merciful and Loving Jesus that we serve.

Do we as Christians share the same cornerstone beliefs as the other world religions and cults?  The claims of Jesus Christ are exclusive compared to the other religions.  He was the only man who lived a pure and sinless life, and is the only one who can back up the claims that He made.  He also offered salvation to broken and sinful people.  He offered hope.  To follow Christ you must be regenerated and receive the free gift of salvation. It isn't earned or deserved.  And even though some of the other religions offer some sort of solution, theirs is diametrically opposed to the teachings and promises of the Holy Bible.

Many will tell you to "live and let live."  I think that is a good policy.  However, some will try to deceive you into thinking that you are intolerant if you do not accept another way.  They will see you as judgmental.  You will just have to remind them that the Bible you believe makes exclusive claims and you didn't write them.  God inspired them, and ordained them into existence, and you cannot reject them any more than a giraffe can reject his spots.  Therefore, God is the great judge.  He will either judge us based on our works, or the great work of Jesus Christ. All we are, are messengers proclaiming the truth of the good news of Jesus to offer hope to a lost and dying world.  Is it unloving to reveal that a sinner will go to hell without confession, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ?  It is unloving not to.  Would you sit by and let a child fall off of a cliff just because you are afraid that he will see you as intolerant because you tell him that he will die when he falls off?  I don't think so.  The world is running headlong over a cliff and I don't want to see my fellow humans fall off.  So I must be truthful and share what I believe.  Is it intolerant?  Only if it is untrue, and after seeing the evidence of history, science, math, and archaeology along with the witness of the Holy Spirit, I cannot believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is untrue.