Intolerance of intolerance

It’s amusing how we Christians are often accused of being intolerant.  We keep insisting that there is right and wrong, that there is one way,  and one way only, to “come to the Father”, and that Jesus is that way.  Many people who are not Christian want us to accept their belief that many paths lead to salvation, and label us as intolerant that we don’t believe that.

But who’s really the intolerant one?  Those who insist that some things are mutually exclusive, or those who insist that all things can coexist, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that is intolerant?

The term “mutually exclusive”, of course, means that if one thing is true the other must be false, and that’s true regardless of whether A or B is the one that is true.  So we believe that Jesus actually said that He was (is) the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  We believe He believed that to be true.  And we believe He was speaking not as a man, but as God Himself.  Scripture testifies to that.  (Luke 24:25-27 says “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.'”).   So if He said it, and if He was who He claimed to be (I and the Father are one – John 10:10), then it would be folly not to take Him at His Word.  So, yes, that’s intolerant.  We do not tolerate the idea that we should accept a lie as the truth.

Ironically, those who call us intolerant don’t see themselves as being intolerant.  Yet they are.  They say ‘Hey, we should all just get along, and anyone who tells me I am wrong about such an important idea is doing me wrong by being intolerant of me’.  And they’re right in a sense.  But importantly, there is a distinction.  We tolerate the person, but we don’t accept as true something we believe to be untrue.  So they misinterpret our intolerance of their belief as intolerance of them.  They take it personally.

But here’s the thing.  If you were driving along at 60 miles an hour, and I was right behind you and you made a turn onto a road that I knew led to a collapsed bridge, what would you have me do?  Should I be tolerant, and let you continue on as if nothing was wrong, or should I do whatever I could to get you to pull over so I could explain the situation?  You might say, sure, keep me from going over the cliff.  But what if I told you that I wasn’t really sure the bridge was down?  What if I only believed it was down, because I read it on a blog earlier in the day?  I might believe the source to be completely reliable, and believing that, would feel that my failure to act would send you to your death.

So I honk my horn, wave and yell from behind, but you pay no attention.  Then I get up real close and yell and wave.  Then I pull alongside and yell and wave.  You go ‘What is this, a crazy person?’  So I try to cut you off, but fail to do so.  Now road rage kicks in and you start trying to cut me off.

At that point, I’d probably give up, not being willing to die trying to protect your life.  And as I fade into your rear view mirror, you mutter something like ‘What a jerk!’, and continue in your anger toward me and your intolerance of me right up to the point when you crash through the barricades and plummet to your death.

Sometimes it pays to be tolerant of intolerance.


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