“Tolerance.” The buzz word of 2015. The cry of the fast-paced generation of millennials (which is my generation). The driving force of old laws being eliminated, new laws being passed, labels being given new, un-offensive titles. And the reason it’s no longer socially advantageous to be a Christian in America – we aren’t known as the most “tolerant” religious group of the day. For Christians young and old, new and seasoned, peacemaking and confrontational, juggling textbooks or babies, the question arises, “How can I stand in God’s truth without turning people off to an absolute truth?”
I grew up in the public school system and did a terrible job of proclaiming the name of Jesus. Not because I partied, but because I clung so tightly to the legalistic approach to Christianity that I left no room for grace – and no room for God. I silently (okay, sometimes I was silent) judged those who did not live the prudent, “walk the straight and narrow” lifestyle that I did. In college, the Lord graciously and painfully broke my heart down to teach me that goodness does not come from myself, but that even my best was the equivalent of a used rag (Isaiah 64:6). I’m currently in graduate school at a Christian university in name only. I have friends of different faiths and backgrounds. Some grew up hearing the name Jesus, some Yahweh, some nothing at all. Most respect my faith, fewer want to truly participate.
So, how do I balance walking in light and verbally preaching truth? I confess – I am still figuring this out daily. I don’t want to say something unpopular, say something that will turn someone away from God because it seems so strict and intolerant, seem judgmental or unaccepting. In 2015, how can I lead people to see that God’s words are still true and relevant, and that He seeks not to condemn, but to save and love? (2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4:9-10) How can I take a stance without building a wall?
We can only look to Jesus. We can always only look to Jesus. He called the religious leaders vipers, broods of snakes, whitewashed tombs. He claimed to be the fulfillment of a 500-year old prophecy and almost got thrown off a cliff for it (Luke 4). He claimed to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70). He told the group of people who had been told they were special and God’s favorites for hundreds of years that salvation was to be extended to people not like them. People very unlike them. People of different color, background, beliefs. Sinners.
But there’s more to Jesus:
He preached without pushing the crowds into becoming believers.
He fed without forcing people to become followers.
He cured without condition.
He spoke the truth, but in love.
And he did everything in love, love so deep, vast, and eternal that he took all our sin upon his divine shoulders.
Jesus was unapologetically Jesus – He was Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One, God’s Son, the Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He still is. He always will be. And another thing, a persnickety characteristic we often forget and want to bury in our age of tolerance – Jesus was offensively loving, and lovingly offensive.
How do we handle speaking truth and showing love? We are lovingly, firmly, compassionately, unapologetically Christian.