I am the kind of person that wants everybody to get along. I have the kind of faith that doesn’t want to exclude people. It bothers me when someone hurts another person. 

 So the word tolerance is a word I like until I started reading the Scriptures.  

Can tolerance and faith coexist?  

The Bible is specific that people will have different beliefs than you and that others will not take it lightly:

Romans 1:18-25 says that God gives us all evidence that He is true.

John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only way amongst all the other spiritual paths.

Luke 6:22 says that we are blessed when others reject us.

John 15:18 say that when the world hates you, they hated Christ first.

These Scriptures are clear about some things:  That people are not always going to agree with you and will even get hostile because faith in God is exclusive through Jesus. So how do we respond as Christ followers?

What if we changed our positioning to proclaim what we are for and show it through actions of forgiveness, compassion and kindness.

It’s hard to resist a kind person.  It’s hard to be hostile towards a compassionate person.  It’s difficult to deny someone’s forgiveness.

How Jesus deals with differing opinions is how we should deal with opinions that are different from us.  A gracious person is Jesus.   Graciousness is stronger and a better choice than tolerance.  Graciousness is defined as having a forgiving attitude and compassionate posture as we walk in wisdom with those whose opinions, attitudes and beliefs are different than yours.  Here are some effective ways to  like Jesus in a tolerant culture:

 1. Channel your passions.

Jesus was facing popular opposition in his day.  When confronted with stubborn, unredeemed and resistant people, Jesus actually is referenced as being angry at their stance on a particular religious issue.  Mark says Jesus “…looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.”  Might be the only time we see Jesus angry and performing a miracle at the same time.  So how does Jesus channel his anger and sadness at their ignorance? He chooses to be angry (without sinning of course) and do God’s will at the same time because it can be done.

2. Pay it forward positively.

God insists, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…do not take revenge…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17).  Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost.  He had a fierce determination to not allow the opposition of others to sidetrack him from his purpose or to deflect him from his mission.  And at the end of the day Jesus is to overcome evil with good.  Jesus doesn’t overcome evil with protest.  He doesn’t overcome evil with twitter rants.  Jesus doesn’t overcome evil with boycotting.  Jesus isn’t overcoming evil by yelling or arguing with others.  He will get attention by flipping a table and pulling out a whip on occasion, yes.

But Jesus ultimate goal is to seek transformation not attention. 

Peter tried to repay evil for evil by picking a battle and even going as far as to hurt those against them physically by cutting off a Roman guard’s ear (Luke 22:51).   Trying to payback an eye for an eye or an ear for an ear is not the heart of Jesus.  As a matter of fact he spoke to Peter saying, “Am I leading a rebellion?”  And he healed the soldier’s ear.  Jesus response was healing not hurting. Maybe that should be our response as well.  Here’s one: Do we boycott Target for transgender bathrooms or do we offer to clean the bathrooms of Target to show the world that serving might be more valuable than protesting?  

3. Genuinely love those in opposition to you.

The best thing you can do is to love those who don’t agree with you.  Not just pray for them but love them (Luke 6:27).  Loving your enemy’s means that you not only pray for them but bless those that persecute you.  Showing kindness to those practically who disagree with you.  Jesus didn’t just write off the Romans for their tyranny, he engaged them by being willing to go to the house of a Centurian and heal his servant’s son (Luke 7:1-10).   While everyone is boycotting Roman rules and regulations, Jesus is willing to go into his house to bring a miracle not a reprimand or a demand. 

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4. Know who your “real” enemy is.

You are not against a person.  You are against an ideology or in spiritual terms: a stronghold or pattern of belief.  As Christian millennials, we must know that our opponents are not our real enemies. We must regularly remind ourselves of the real war going on behind the scenes, as described in Ephesians 6:10–20. The real war is in the spiritual world, and must be fought with spiritual weapons. Our real enemies are spiritual: “principalities…powers…the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Our perceived “human enemies” are simply confused, misunderstood and even being held captive by the real enemy of our souls.

5. Pursue change of heart not opinion.

Jesus takes the initiative when things get heavy and when others pushback. He stands up to his opponents with grace and truth.  But He doesn’t fight on their terms but His terms. Instead he turns the tables …strategically. 

Jesus constantly confirms it’s not about being right with others but doing right to others. 

Jesus is more concerned with the heart of someone than the political opinion of someone.  He takes the controversy to them.  Jesus appeals to their logic as well as their conscience.  That’s why Jesus poses the question, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Luke 5:23). This is because Jesus is seeking a change of heart and mind in his opponents, not just to win an argument. His desire is to bring them to a place of a surrender to experience forgiveness.  And that must be our motivation with those who disagree with us. They may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16).

6. Always let the Holy Spirit Lead You.

What does it look like for you to love a transgender, an addicted teenager, a liberal, a republican, the girl who is living with her boyfriend, your gay neighbors, your porn-addicted friend, the person who believes that all roads lead to heaven and that you are narrow-minded?  I’ll let Jesus tell you:

 “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

 This chapter is not about marriage (sorry well-meaning people) but this chapter is about spiritual gifts. It’s about the enabling of the Holy Spirit to use you in your world to make a difference in the people around you and to make a difference you need love.  Because if you don’t have love as you engage with others, you are nothing.  Plain and simple.  The love in 1 Corinthians isn’t a passive love.  It’s quite the opposite actually.  It’s aggressive because it speaks out of moments you’ll have as you love people that will be filled with boasting and passionate disagreement.   That’s why God is giving us a list of words — patience, kindness, not holding grudges.  Because this is in the context of the Holy Spirit, only He can give you this kind of love, this kind of mindset, and this kind of heart for others.  For you to be a gift and a blessing to those around you, let the Holy Spirit give you the ability to respond according to this Scripture and watch the tolerance around you lose strength and diminish because the God’s spirit of truth will always be stronger than the tolerance of culture.  Always.  The Spirit of God in you will always change the people and atmosphere around you, if you just let it.

Alan Pastian works is a Pastor at River Valley Church in Minneapolis, MN, where he lives with his wife, Heidi, and is father to Anja and Magnus, he thinks coffee and community are inseparable, he believes a picture speaks a thousand words, he celebrates films as modern-day parables and is committed to collecting experiences more than collecting things.

  • Amen Amen and Amen, true words pastor. Thanks for sharing with us. It’s not always easy but we must let Jesus fully in us by love 🙂