Toleration is an important word in our culture. It may be important to you. In a “live and let live” society such as ours a certain amount of toleration is expected and necessary. But tolerance is not the same as indifference. A person may appear to be tolerant simply because he or she carries no convictions. This is not tolerance. It is indifference rooted in a practical nihilism, and it is all around us. Is it also a part of us?
The indifference toward belief which often accompanies the absence of authentic faith is one thing. Such unbelief can easily lead someone to conclude that there really is nothing to believe in beyond the self. Indifference on the part of those who have come to know Christ is something else again.
We Christians dare not worship at the American cultural altar of toleration if it leads to this damning indifference. The Christian cannot be neutral or indifferent about belief, not without denying the Lord of the Church. This we simply cannot tolerate. For the fact is that if we have truly been grasped by the Gospel of Christ we will not be indifferent about the matter of beliefs.
If your neighbor were attacked by a robber, wouldn’t you go to his assistance? If a close friend were stricken with a disease of the body, wouldn’t you go to her aid? So, if your neighbor is captured by false beliefs or no belief at all, is it not your duty as a Christian to wage war against what is ultimately more destructive than thieves or disease? Thieves and disease can rob us of aspects of our lives. Ideas can take the whole person – body and soul. To practice indifference toward our neighbors beliefs in the name of tolerance is, in fact, to “live and let die.”
Jesus calls you to be vigilant about the matter of beliefs, for there is “one name by which we are saved.” Belief in Jesus is the path God has laid down by which human beings come to authentic faith. We believe and confess that in Jesus Christ all truth, meaning and purpose are revealed – for all. This is not a popular idea, nor has it ever been, as the blood of the martyrs will attest. God may have other avenues by which people are saved. We do not know. What we do know is that our Lord, in viewing the human landscape has said, “Go in all the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This is not a formula for toleration as our culture defines it, to be sure. It is something much better.
These words resonate from the heart of God, who in His love and grace has provided the way of authentic trust and belief through Jesus. When the life-changing truth of the Gospel of this same Jesus Christ is openly and courageously shared, people are freed, by God’s grace, from false belief and no belief. Their lives are set on the hopeful course of a living faith. Someone you know needs to hear this life-changing message. May God grant us the grace and courage to care less about the bland tolerance advocated by the culture and more about the truth that God has revealed in Jesus Christ!
Pastor Mark Anderson
From the revamped website of Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA