Category Archives: LIVING OUR FAITH

How Far Does ‘Tolerance’ Go?

I get attacked by folks all the time.  I get attacked by people from all sides of the political spectrum.  I am used to that.  But the attacks that cause me the most anguish are those that come from others who profess to be ‘good’ believers.  These attacks cause me the most grief because, by making their attack, they prove to me that they neither know their Scriptures, nor try to follow them.  Well, as it happens, I was attacked by such a believer again today, and it was in relation to the politics surrounding the mass shootings in El Paso Texas and Dayton, Ohio.  This time, I was bothered so much that I thought I would write about it.

As it happens, this particular believer and I have had several conversations.  This person is on the opposite side from me on the political spectrum, but we managed to be cordial in our conversations.  I realized early on it would be easy to do with this person: so long as I agreed with everything they said and believed, this believer would accept me as being ‘rational.’  However, the moment I disagreed, or did not behave the way they demanded, I was suddenly a hypocrite who had something wrong with them.  And, predictably, I had the usual Scriptural attack thrown at me to prove their case.  Sadly, all that proves is that the person throwing Scripture does not know Scripture and is not trying to follow it.

That said, I beg the reader to notice I have neither named names, nor even mentioned whether I am talking about a woman or a man.  Nor have I questioned this believer’s faith.  I am merely using the opportunity of my encounter with them to launch into a much more important topic: the abuse of ‘tolerance’ in the Church.  Sadly, too many have accepted the World’s definition of tolerance and not that of Scripture.

Scripture teaches believers that they must be tolerant of those who hold different beliefs about God.  Yes, we are to preach the Gospel and to share the Truth of Christ, but, if we are rejected — and Scripture warns us that we will be — we are not to attack, but to shake the dust from our feet and leave those people form God to handle.  Ultimately, we are not responsible for saving anyone.  Our only duty is to preach the Gospel — in its true form — and to offer correction when and where we find error.  We are to do nothing more!  The result is to be left to God and the Holy Spirit.  So, if I was so wrong today, and this believer so right, why was I not left alone?

The answer is hard to accept — at least for me.  This is because this believer was using a Worldly view to deal with me.  The issue where we crossed was on tolerance in politics.  This believer demanded that I practice a Spiritual tolerance in relation to earthly matters.  Well, this is a mistake in itself.  Scripture does not teach us to be tolerant of the World’s ways.  It teaches us to be separate from them.  But this believer demanded that I not only be ‘tolerant’ by treating everything others believe as being true, but also as being equal to my own beliefs — even to the point where they expected me to prostrate my convictions in deference to theirs.  In short, I either accepted everything this believers said I had to believe, or I was an intolerant, hateful, broken hypocrite — and they said so.

There were several problems with this believer’s rebuke of me.  First, they did not offer Scripture to show me my error, but they did use it to support their attack on me.  They also did this publicly.  None of this is Scriptural.  But worse, they were demanding that I accept lies as truth, and to defer to these lies in place of my own convictions.  In short, this believer was demanding that I accept the World or I was not a ‘good’ Christian.  Sadly, I see w-a-y too much of this coming from my brothers and sisters in Christ, and it breaks my heart.

Friends, accepting all beliefs as true and equal is conforming to the world, and conforming to the world is not sound doctrine.  I know this to be true because I know the Scriptures and I do try to live by them.  Yes, I fail — often.  Too often I know I am doing wrong even as I do it or choose to do wrong.  And yes, I know this makes me a hypocrite.  But I fight the sin side of my human nature as best I can and I trust Christ to protect me.  I can do nothing to justify myself before God.  Only Jesus can do that.  So no work I do will be of any use to me.  No, I fight the sin side of my nature because I desire to be obedient.  This is just made harder when I see other professed believers attacking each other over not being a ‘proper’ Christian.  Imagine how you would feel if you were accused of being a hypocrite by someone who was playing the hypocrite by attacking you?  But rather than feel wronged or injured, I feel grief.  How can God’s people be so ignorant of God’s Laws?

This brings me to the political side of this attack.  The person in question sides with the gun-control lobby.  To this believer, President Trump is an evil racist whose language has caused these attacks.  This believer also told me I have to see that the Republicans are just as guilty of causing hate as any Democrat.  And I had to agree that I could not question what the Democrats do or I would be guilty of being part of the problem.  In was all more of the: “Agree with me or you are not a ‘good’ Christian/person” routine.  Honestly, I am used to it.  I expect it from the World.  But I do not expect it from a person who professes to be a believer.

So, here is where I had a real problem with the individual responsible for this post.  When I tried to point out that the side with which they stood had kicked God out of its platform; defends the murder of the unborn; promotes the LGBT agenda; advocates for government control of our entire lives; covets the property of others; promotes dependency and rejects personal responsibility — and more — I was told that I was being a hater and am part of the problem.  My dear reader, all of the things I listed are true, and all of them are signs of a rebellious heart.  None of them are supposed to reside in the heart of a true believer.  Which brings me to this dilemma:

If we are to judge based on the fruit of the person’s heart/actions, how am I to judge such a person as this believer?

 

(P.S. I already know the answer, I just don’t like what it implies... 😦  )

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Religious Tolerance in America

What is Christian tolerance? Should Christians be tolerant of other religious beliefs?

Do we have the right to make these judgments?

 

What Is the Cost of ‘Tolerance?’

How should a believer understand the concept of ‘tolerance?’  Our society places a high value on this thing we call ‘tolerance,’ but I have to wonder whether or not we are all using the word the same way.  One side likes to pretend it holds the moral high ground on ‘tolerance,’ but, at the same time, it seeks to destroy any and all who hold different beliefs.  How can one claim to be ‘tolerant’ while seeking to silence all opposing voices?  Another side is ‘tolerant’ of anything and everything, to the point where the notion of ‘tolerance’ becomes a nothing issue.  If one accepts anything and everything, then exactly what is the need for ‘tolerance?’  In both cases, the word, ‘tolerance,’ is used; but, in both cases, it means very different things. So, again, how should a believer understand the concept of ‘tolerance?’

I suspect I may see this as a tougher issue than most.  This is because I find that I cannot agree with the way most people understand ‘tolerance.’  To the average person, believers included, ‘tolerance’ is closely related to acceptance.  For me, even considering the possibility that ‘tolerance’ could mean acceptance flies in opposition to what I know of Scripture.  For example: when I searched for what the Scriptures have to say about ‘tolerance,’ I found a listing of some 24+ verses that are supposed to be about ‘tolerance.’  However, when I read these verses, I found that many of them seemed to me to be more about ‘patience’ and ‘respect for others’ than they were about ‘tolerance.’  As I continued to read, I found that there are actually few — if any — verses in Scripture that teach us to be ‘tolerant’ in the way our society advocates the idea of ‘tolerance.’  In fact, Scripture seems to teach exactly the opposite of ‘tolerance.’  It teaches us to be intolerant, at least where foolishness, wickedness and evil are concerned.

Consider the many verses in the Old Testament that command a transgressor be put to death.  In Deuteronomy 19:19, 22:21, 22:24 and 24:7, we are clearly told that we are to put the transgressors to death so that we may ‘purge the evil from among us.’  In the News Testament, we are often told to have nothing to do with those who refuse to change their wicked and evil ways.  We find this teaching in passages such as 1 Cor 5:11 and Titus 3: 10-11.  Then there are the many passages that clearly state believers are not to accept differences of opinions on matters of sound doctrine.  This would include issues such as unrepentant homosexuality and female pastors, among other things.  Our modern understanding of ‘tolerance’ has lead many believers to accept such teachings into the church, but passages such as Romans 16:17, 1 Cor 5:11, 1 Tim 6:2-5, 2 John 10:11 clearly forbid believers from ‘tolerating’ those who teach such things.  So, how does a believer reconcile Scripture with our society’s emphasis on ‘tolerance?’

But let’s not stop there.  We should consider what Scripture has to say about those who teach the idea that ‘tolerance’ requires acceptance.  Proverbs 17:15 and Isaiah 5:20-21 both condemn people who try to make evil into good and good into evil.  Then, knowing how the Lord feels about them, how does a believer ‘tolerate’ such people?

I do not pretend to have the answers, but I know that the answers are connected to my previous post on what it means to love one another.  I look at it this way: if we truly believe the Scriptures are the Word of God, then we cannot allow ourselves to compromise on those matters where God’s Word clearly says this is right and that is wrong.  Nor can we ‘tolerate’ people who claim otherwise.  To do so is to ‘tolerate’ evil, and God’s people should have no part with evil.  Scripture even says so.  However, we are also commanded to show an agape love toward others.  This includes those who teach evil.  So, how does one show an agape love toward someone who is teaching evil?  Again, I do not have the answer to this question as I suspect it will be different for every believer and, maybe, in every case.  But I do know this: at no time does Scripture teach us to ‘tolerate’ evil or evil doers.  To ‘tolerate’ evil among us is to live with evil, and Scripture teaches us that living with evil is the path toward becoming evil, ourselves.

 

What Doe it Mean to ‘Love One Another?’

When I was ‘younger’ in my faith, I never wondered what it meant to ‘love one another as I love myself.’  I knew what it meant.  However, as I have grown in my faith, and I started to notice how many people use the notion of ‘love,’ I started to wonder whether or not I truly understood what Scripture meant by ‘love.’  We hear people urging each other to ‘love’ each other all the time, but what do they mean by that?  Do they mean it the way Scripture intends us to understand it, or do they mean something entirely different?  If they have a different idea in mind, what do they actually mean, and what  might be the result or consequences of that different understanding?  These are not insignificant questions.  Sadly, though, few will ever ask them.

Why do I wonder about this issue?  Well, for one, we use ‘love’ as a blanket notion, but Scripture does not — especially the New Testament.  In the New Testament, Scripture uses several different words to describe different ideas of ‘love.’  Sometimes ‘love’ is more of an emotional feeling, but, other times, it is more of an intentional act.  For example: when we are told to ‘love our enemies,’ we are not told to ‘like’ them.  Scripture differentiates between  having a righteous concern for others and having warm, friendly, affectionate feelings toward them.  This difference is apparent in the original Greek of the New Testament, as well as in the actual context of the teachings it contains, but not in our modern translations.  I just wonder whether or not modern believers are aware of this difference, let alone understand what it means for us in our daily walk.

A famous example is when Christ asks Peter if Peter loves Him.  The first two times Jesus questions Peter, He asks Peter whether or not Peter agapes Him, but Peter answers that he phileos the Lord.  Finally, on the third time, Jesus asks Peter whether or not Peter phileos Him and Peter says yes, yet again.  Sadly, I think we miss the full impact of this passage.  Jesus asked Peter two times whether or not Peter had a righteous, Godly love for Christ, and twice Peter answered that he had a fond, friendship type of love for the Lord.  Seeing that Peter was not spiritually mature enough to understand what He was asking, Jesus finally comes down to Peter’s level and asks whether Peter has a friendship type of love for Him and Peter agrees with this understanding of ‘love.’  By doing this, Jesus demonstrates agape love: He showed concern for Peter’s well being and asked His question in such a way as not to harm Peter without reason.  Or, in other words, Jesus ‘came down’ to Peter’s level of understanding.  How many of us see and understand what was actually happening in this passage?  And how does it change our understanding once we do understand?

Then there is the passage where Jesus says to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.‘  Here we are told to have a righteous concern, or a ‘Godly love for our neighbor — just as we have for ourselves.  Again, we are not told that we must have fond feelings for our neighbor; we are told that we must look out for them, and treat them righteously.  If we put this in modern terms, we might say that we should have a ‘tough love’ for our neighbors, just as we should have it for ourselves.  This is the source of my concern: how many of us who urge each other to ‘love’ each other today actually mean we should show ‘tough love’ to each other?  More than that, how many who speak in such terms means we should show ‘tough love’ toward ourselves?  ‘Tough love’ is often the type of love that says no.  That tells us when we are wrong.  That puts the needs of others before ourselves.  It’s also the the type of love that lets us fall down and skin our knee, and even ruin our lives when we refuse to listen to sound council.  Sadly, I suspect that the majority of those who speak in terms of ‘love’ today are still stuck on the level of Peter: they think the ‘love’ God commands means to like or have affection for others, not to treat others as God treats us.

This brings us to the question of: what does it mean to ‘do good?’  This is another passage where we are told to love others, and to ‘do good’ to them — especially our enemies.  In this passage, we are told to be righteous toward those who do not like us — even our enemies.  And by ‘righteous,’ Scripture means to act in the morally correct way toward them.  But here is where things get difficult.  This means we not only have to know what the morally correct thing is, but how to act in the morally correct way in every situation we might encounter.  When we start to learn how to do this, we start to realize that having a ‘righteous’ love for others does not mean we agree with them or  tolerate their immoral actions.

I make no judgment of others who do not share my concern over what we each mean by ‘love.’  After all, Christ gave us the perfect example of how to handle this issue when He questioned Peter, and what better way for a believer to live than to follow the Lord’s example?  But I do urge others to consider my words.  What would it mean for us if I am correct to question this matter?  How would that change the way we see and understand the things Scripture is trying to teach us?  Well, we have an example in Scripture to consider in the story of Jesus and the rich young man.

Many of us know this story, and we might even know that Jesus is said to have ‘loved’ this young man.  But look at how our understanding of this passage might change if we do not think that Jesus had a warm, affectionate love for this man, but rather, Jesus treated the young man righteously.  In the first case, it is easy to miss the point of the passage.  But, if we think of Jesus’ love for this man as an ‘act’ or ‘verb,’ rather than a feeling or emotion, then the message becomes more clear.  Jesus did not embrace or tolerate the young man’s on-going sin, but rather, Jesus corrected him.  He did so as kindly as possible, but Jesus still stood firmly on moral ground and pointed out the wrong in the young man’s life.  But Jesus did not stop there.  After the young man left, Jesus took the opportunity to teach those who were around Him and told all who would listen what the young man was doing wrong.  How many of us would dare to do such a thing today?  And yet, we are told that Jesus ‘loved’ this young man.

So, when we hear others urging ‘love,’ perhaps we would be wise to stop and consider what — exactly — is being said.  Are we being urged to act righteously toward others as well as ourselves, or are we being urged to do something entirely different?  Is it possible that we are actually being urged to do wrong ‘in the name of love?’  Because, honestly, when I look at the way the word, ‘love,’ is used in our society today, I fear this is exactly what is being done.  Whether people realize it or not, they may be using the notion of ‘love’ to paper over a call to act immorally, not righteously, and we have all heard it said:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

Further reading on this subject:

What does it mean to love one another?

Is the Lord Really Our Master?

There is so much about which I would like to write, but I have learned that the majority of it comes from me and not the Lord and His Word.  Consequently, I am trying to learn to quiet my own inner voice and wait on the Lord to tell me what I should say to those of you who are listening.  I was temporarily successful at doing just that this morning, which is why, when I saw this picture in my Face Book feed today, I heard that small still voice tell me: “There, that is what you are supposed to write about this week!”

53293116_2007521496034427_8414332277122662400_n

When I read Spurgeon’s words, and heard that still, small voice, I felt so ashamed.  I had been struggling over what to write because I had been thinking for and in terms of myself and my own wisdom.  In my mind, I was trying to find something to say that would edify others, but Spurgeon’s words cut me to the bone and laid bare my self-deception.  They convicted me, and made me realize that I was not trying to do the Lord’s will, but my own.  It left me feeling totally broken.  I felt broken because I realized how far I have left to go in learning to make myself into an instrument the Lord can actually use.  There is still so much of myself I have to let go of before I have truly made the Lord my Master.  I wonder, how many other believers ever find themselves in this same position?

I follow a lot of other believers, and I read their Face Book posts and their blogs.  I read what my mentors have to say about the Lord and His Word.  All of them seem to be so sincere, and their words are so helpful.  Thinking about them, I remembered that several of you have said similar things about what I write, and it forced me to wonder how my writing and that of the believers I admire might be connected to Spurgeon’s words.  It made me wonder whether or not I am a hypocrite?  Am I the only one who writes thinking they are doing the Lord’s work only to realize that I have been writing for myself?  Or how about the way I live?  Are my words and deeds a true witness for the Lord, or have I just been fooling myself into believing they are?  And better still, am I the only one who worries about such things?  Does worrying about it when so many others seem so sure of themselves mean I am not on solid ground after all?  Or does it mean something else?  Could it mean the exact opposite?

Am I supposed to constantly question myself, and to examine the true motivation behind the things I do and say?  Do I speak and act for me, or for Him?  Is that the mark of a true and faithful servant?  If it is, then what of all those believers I admire so much who seem so sure of themselves?  They never seem to question themselves.  Is their self-confidence a sign of true faith, a faith stronger than my own?  Or could it be an indication that they still have work to do in emptying themselves of themselves, as well?  Is their confidence born of their reliance on the Lord, or on their reliance in themselves?  And then, is this something about which I should even be thinking?  After all, Christ told us not to judge the heart of others, so is it treading on dangerous ground even to wonder about such things?

Honestly, I worry about this sort of thing a great deal.  I worry because I know my Scriptures, and those who know their Scriptures should also know that there are passages that clearly say the opposite of what so many modern believers are taught.  For example, the Scriptures never say “Once saved, always saved.”  That message simply isn’t in Scripture, yet so many believers are confident in this belief.  What the Scriptures do say is that we are saved, being saved and will be saved, and that we are to work out our own salvation, and that we must stick to the narrow path until our race is finished.  This suggests that our salvation is a continual, life-long process.  Scripture also tells us that the saved will become sons and daughters of God, and brothers and sisters of Christ, but also that to be a son or daughter, brother or sister, we must follow the Lord’s Commands and do the will of the Father.  But how many believers are aware of these passages, let alone wonder about what they mean?  And what does it mean that they either do not know or do not wonder?

Ultimately, I don’t think we can know the answers to these questions while we are still in the flesh.  All we can do is what Scripture pleads with us to do: obey the Father’s Commands as best we can until the day we die and trust in Christ’s sacrifice to save us in the end.  But before we can do this, we have to know the Father’s Commands, and then we have to actually live them.  That means we have to read the Scriptures and change the way we think, speak and act.  Oh, how hard that is to do — mostly because we are all too filled with ourselves and not enough with the Father’s Holy Spirit.  This is the struggle every believer must wrestle with: putting down their own desires and doing the will of their Master.  You see, if our heart is too full of ourselves, then there isn’t enough room for the Holy Spirit, and without the Holy Spirit, we cannot do the Father’s work.  At best, we pretend and put on false pretenses of doing His will, and just look at the mess we believers have made of this world in the process.  But think of how different things would be if we were to truly make the Lord our Master.  What could we accomplish if we were to empty the temple of ourselves and allow the Lord to take His rightful place in our heart?  Then we would truly be filled with His glory, and share in Christ’s inheritance while still here on earth.  The Apostles did this and they changed the world.  Oh!  Just imagine: what work we could do for our Master if we would but let Him guide us instead of trying to do it all our own way!

Believers Need To Understand There Is No Common Ground Here

I do not want to explain myself the way I normally do — not in this post.  I simply do not trust myself to talk right now.  I am too angry and too grieved over what is happening in this nation today.  We are divided, and a house divided cannot stand.  Unfortunately, I do not see how we can mend this rift.  I hear people saying we have to try to understand the other side so we can find common ground and then come together on that common ground, but I do not see any common ground between us –not any more.  There was a time, when this was still about politics, but this is no longer about politics, or Left vs Right.  No, this has become about lawless vs lawful, good vs evil, and the two do not have any common ground.  Scripture is quite clear on this:

John 1:5-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [a]comprehend it.

A person is either in and of the light, or in and of the darkness, and those who are in and of the darkness turn Truth upside down and inside out.  They:

Isaiah 5:20-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who [a]substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who [b]substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!

I look around and I see people demanding that I believe a woman who makes charges without witnesses to support her charges, and that I condemn a man who has four witnesses refuting her claims.  This is lawlessness.  Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 13:1 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Examine Yourselves

13 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every [a]fact [b]is to be confirmed by the [c]testimony of two or three witnesses.

Therefore, Scripture tells me that those people demanding that I condemn Judge Kavanaugh and believe his accuser are lawless, and Scripture defines lawlessness as evil.  How do I — as a believer — find common ground with evil?  If I compromise with evil, I join myself to evil, and since evil is not and cannot be a part of the Lord, I would be alienating myself from my Savior.

But how did we — a Christian nation — get to this point?  I keep asking myself this question, but I know the answer: we got here the exact same way Israel got to the point where it was twice destroyed — first the Northern Tribes, and then the Southern.  To put it simply, we turned away from the source of all our blessings, from the very anchor of our society and foundation of our liberty — the One True Living God!

I suddenly find myself being persecuted simply because I refuse to renounce the Truth.  Honestly, I pray that you, dear reader, are experiencing the same persecution, because there is affirmation in that persecution.  If you stand for what is right and just, if you refuse to become lawless and are attacked because of it, then know that you are standing with The Logos, The Word.  This means you are in the Logos and the Logos is in you, and the world hates you because of it:

John 15:18-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Disciples’ Relation to the World

18 “If the world hates you, [a]you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

Matthew 10:22  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Therefore, if you are hated because you will not join the rest of the world in this growing lawlessness, or because you will not replace right with wrong, good with evil, then know that the world hates you because you do not belong to the world.  You are from above.  But also know that you and I are called to endure to the end.  This means we must not back away from this fight, we just have to fight the way the Scriptures command us to fight.  Put on the full armor of the Lord, and speak the Gospel: boldly and purely and without fear.  Witness to the world through your testimony and your actions, and do so with an agape love for all.  And remember, no matter what:

Romans 12:17-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. [a]Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [b]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Peter 3:9-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but [a]giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For,

The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Who is [b]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [c]are blessed. And do not fear their[d]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [e]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [f]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [g]reverence;16 [h]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.