Yeah, that is a mouthful huh? I wouldn't want to say that 15 times as in the old "Peter Piper" exercise. You might not be able to tolerate hearing it! :)
My generation gets accused of being intolerant of other's intolerance.....especially
the intolerance of the generation that preceeded ours. I have several thoughts bouncing around in the empty crevices of my pea-size brain that I want to share, and you can let me know if I am on track or if I have left the reservation.
First comes the question "Is intolerance a bad thing?" Obviously it depends on what you are intolerant of. As a parent, Jan and I were intolerant of several things. The first one that comes to mind is disrespect. That is one characteristic that we would not tolerate with our two boys, and I don't regret being intolerant about that expectation. It also reminds me that if I am going to require that of them, then I too have to be respectful of people.......even the ones I will get to in a minute. Anyway, I could name several things that we did not tolerate as parents........and all of you that are parents out there could do the same. I bet our lists would look pretty similar. Well, not everybody would be intolerant of their boys being Tennessee fans! :) But other than that, most of us probably want the same things for our children, and would probably want similar values instilled in our kids. So getting back to my original question about intolerance in itself being a bad thing, I think we would all agree that NO, it isn't.....in fact in this situation it is a very GOOD thing!
Let's go ahead and get into deeper water.........was Jesus ever intolerant? ABSOLUTELY! A quick reading of Matthew 12, Matthew 23 and Luke 11 gives you some insight as to what it was that Jesus was intolerant of. Self-righteousness was the biggie, if I am reading those Gospel accounts correctly. Jesus did NOT tolerate the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees. Would I be incorrect then to conclude that we too are called to be intolerant of self-righteous attitudes in 2005? With no distinction of age or gender, I think we are called to be intolerant of self-righteous attitudes. I don't think I need to go into a description of what self-righteousness is.......we all have seen it, and even been guilty of it to some degree ourselves. Have you ever been proud of your own perceived goodness? Yeah, me too. Have you ever compared yourself to someone else who you thought not to be as "good" as you are? Yeah, me too. So we all have been guilty to some degree, haven't we? But I would like to think that is NOT who I am most of the time. A stumble or mistake does not define who we are, thank goodness.
Jesus was not talking to those types of people when he used phrases like "you brood of vipers". No, he was talking to people who made self-righteousness their goal in life. That is who they WANTED to be! They weren't struggling to overcome that temptation we all experience, they were striving to become professionals at it. They weren't running from it, they were embracing it and wanting more! I hope we can distinguish the difference.
So, where does that leave us in this discussion? Are we called to be patient people? Are we called to forgive as HE forgave us? Are we called to love the unloveable? A big ole amen to all the above. So what can we be intolerant of? Well, we sure haven't earned the right to be intolerant of anything. But at the same time, Jesus showed us what He and the Father were intolerant of. Micah also spoke some truths that were not done away with because they were spoken under the old covenant: "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does he Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
So what is my response to be to those who have a self-righteous intolerance of others? Just like all other sinners, I believe I am called to love those people.........and hate their sin! I sure hope they would treat me that way. Jesus can call them "brood of Vipers" all day long and into next week if He wants to......He is God. I am not. But just like I am going to be intolerant of a murderer's murdering, a homosexual's homosexuality, a liar's lie, a thief's stealing, I AM GOING TO BE INTOLERANT OF SELF-RIGHTEOUS INTOLERANCE! I will love that person, but I won't love their intolerance. I hope I can speak the truth to them in love, as they will speak to me about my short-comings in love in return. So the million dollar question is.......then am I self-righteous when I accuse someone of being self-righteous? If I communicate to that person that I think I am more spiritual or a better Christian, then YES....I think I would have to say I would be self-righteous. But I can talk with a homosexual and communicate that homosexuality is wrong without doing it in a way that comes across as me thinking I am better than he or she is, and being sure that I communicate to the person I love them. Same with a liar, or a thief, or a murderer........pick the sin. So why can't we communicate to self-righteous intolerant folks the SAME thing? I think we can. I am no better than you, in fact I may have MORE struggles than you do......but your intolerance of others is wrong. You are being intolerant of other PEOPLE, I am intolerant of your sin while still loving YOU! I think there is a HUGE difference between those two attitudes. I don't believe that is being self-righteous, and I hope you will correct me if I am wrong.
This was a LOT harder post than I thought it would be. If it looks like I was thinking as I was typing along..........bingo. I want to confront intolerance head on, but I don't want to come across as self-righteous as I do so. I think maybe Satan has sold us the lie that if you confront folks who are intolerant, then you must be self-righteous. And that is a lie.
Who knows, I may post a retraction for this venting tomorrow.....but today I am putting all the linen on the clothes line for exposure. I hope it helps me.
I hope I never am intolerant of other people, but I hope I am intolerant of their sin.......and most importantly the sin in MY life!
I close with a look in the mirror and a new appreciation for God's Grace! How tolerant is He with ME? This much <-------------------->! So I have no choice but to tolerate everybody!
Thanks for tolerating this post!