Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
As I listen to the political and ideological rhetoric of our day, it has become clear that there is a process underway to change the way some words are perceived.
An example of this would be in regards to what those of a communist mentality in Congress (they like to call themselves Progressives) are doing. Those on the extreme left are constantly asking the rest of us to be “tolerant” of their viewpoints. The truth is, what they mean by tolerant is really a request for “acceptance,” and ultimately to join them.
The current call to tolerance means this: To tolerate them means to accept them. But to accept them means to accept them as they are. But then to accept them as they are means to accept what they do, and how they believe. And then finally, to accept what they do is to condone what they do. The current movement of “tolerance” is intended to change our traditional ways.
What I am trying to point out is that they do not want us to simply put up with them existing in our midst; rather, they want us to accept them and their views as they are. In other words, they want us to allow their policies and practices to be employed in our government, and in our lives. Often, what they want is the removal of absolutes, or a willingness, beginning with our leaders, to ignore the rule of law.
I think it would be good to look to God’s views and actions in regards to right and wrong, love, tolerance, and acceptance. There are many things God tolerates that He does not accept. God tolerates sin in our world at this time, but He does not allow sin into His kingdom. In addition, God loves everyone, so much so that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in payment for our sin.
So God loves everyone, and fortunately He tolerates us, but He cannot accept us into His kingdom in the condition we are in outside of Christ.
Clearly for God, loving and tolerating someone does not go hand in hand with accepting them. So, God tolerates us, but He does not accept all of us, or our ways of sin.
Before I say more, God has provided a way for every one of us to be accepted by Him, that is through repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus. But until you or I do what God requires of us (that is accept His Son), He cannot accept us. In dealing with each other, it would be wise to follow the pattern that God has set for us in these matters.
What I believe is often missing in the discussion of tolerance is that although there is a huge difference between tolerance and acceptance, there should be no difference in how I treat you, whether I tolerate your lifestyle, or if I accept your lifestyle. God makes it clear that I am to love all people, and to care about them. If that is the case, and it is, then how should that love and care be manifested? One way is in the way we call everyone to the same level of accountability — everyone!
Some people have a propensity to lie. It is almost as if they “can’t help it.” Yet what does society expect of them? We expect them to restrain their impulse to lie, even though they might enjoy lying. Some people have a great impulse to steal, and yet again we expect them to resist the impulse to do so. Some people have an impulse to kill someone else, and yet once again we fully expect them not to act on that impulse. It doesn’t matter that they say they are “wired” that way; we expect them not to act on their impulses.
All of these behaviors triggered by internal “impulses” are behaviors God has said are unacceptable. God does not deny that these impulses exist; He simply states that we must not act on them. That must be true of us, as well as our leaders.
Ephesians 5:1 says that we are to imitate God (that is, we are to try to be like Him), and therefore I can tolerate a lifestyle that I am never able to accept. I do not deny that you have desires or impulses to lie, steal, kill, or have sex with an inappropriate partner, but I echo the Word of God when I ask that you do not act on those impulses. That requirement placed on you is no less the requirement God places on me in the areas of life in which I am tempted to sin.
You may say you don’t have the strength or desire not to act on your impulses or feelings. I don’t doubt you. But God can give you the power, ability, and desire to do so, and He gives you those things when you accept Christ as your Savior, for it is at that time that God, the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell within you for all eternity.
Choose Christ — Choose Life!
McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.