One of the most common criticisms of Christianity is that people see it as intolerant. From Jesus being the only way to the Father to our rejection of what the Bible calls sin, those outside the faith (and even many inside the faith) reject orthodox Christianity because it seems so narrow-minded. I want to take a few moments today to address some of this so whether you are Christian or not you might have a better understanding regarding our faith.
There is a basic premise in Christianity that is the cause of all this intolerance talk: Christians believe that a holy and righteous God has the right to define sin as He determines. And as He defines it, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As a Christian who buys into this approach, it is easy for me to see how sin permeates our entire society and world. I have not met anyone anywhere anytime who had not sinned during their life as God defines it.
But is this intolerant?
Our society is based on rules. When someone breaks the rules a price must be paid. You speed and get caught, you get a ticket and pay a fine. You break the law and get caught, you go to jail and pay for your crime. Should then criminals call all law-abiding citizens intolerant because we hold to the laws of our society?
And herein lies the problem for those who think Christianity is intolerant: Basically the criminals are trying to tell the law-abiding citizens we’re the ones being intolerant. In more theological terms, sinful man doesn’t get to tell God He is intolerant of their law breaking just because they enjoy breaking the law.
And this is where Jesus comes in!
If we all fall short of the Glory of God, we need someone to rescue us from this short fall because we in our own power cannot meet God’s holiness. Like a criminal sentenced for committing a crime, we stood guilty before God until Jesus stepped up and did the unthinkable – He said He would take our punishment for us and we would be declared “Not Guilty” and were free to go.
Why is Jesus the only way to the Father? Because Jesus is the only one who paid the price for our transgressions – no other religion, no other person, nothing you said or did or could do could pay that price. Only Jesus. And thus He is indeed the only way to being declared not guilty.
People don’t like this idea because it puts them in an uncomfortable box. First, they have to admit there is a holy and righteous God who is bigger than they are. Second, they have to admit they sin and thus there is such a thing as absolute truth. Third, they have to submit to the fact that they themselves in their own power can’t solve this sin problem and thus need a savior.
So rather than admit what seems obvious to those of us who are Christians, non-believers simply reject God, sin, and their need to repent of any of their actions. Christians then are intolerant because we hold on to Jesus as the only way to get to the Father and won’t allow non-believers to find another way to God such as good works, being morally upright, or any path other religions take to God.
I have a friend who is militantly anti-Christian. He doesn’t believe in God; he doesn’t believe in sin; and he doesn’t believe he needs anyone to declare him not guilty because he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong. He finds me rather intolerant because I stand by my belief that what God calls sin is indeed sin regardless of how society views it. But there is so much he doesn’t understand in his antagonism to my faith.
What in the world could be more tolerant than offering EVERYONE the chance of being declared not guilty?
The beauty of Christianity is we all can be declared “Not Guilty” by simply agreeing that God’s ways are right and our ways are wrong. For many their pride just won’t let them get there, but calling Christians intolerant is a true misunderstanding of what God is offering.
If I spend just a couple of moments thinking of all the bad stuff I’ve done in my life, I know I certainly deserve significant consequences for my decisions and actions. But God the Father loves me (and you!) so much He gave me a way to escape any punishment for my obvious transgressions – I just had to accept the gift of grace given to me by Jesus who took my punishment on a cross.
If we are to be intellectually honest, calling Christianity intolerant is actually one of those “red herring” arguments non-believers use to intimidate Christians from witnessing to them about God’s love for them. So the next time you hear someone tell you Christianity is intolerant of (fill in the blank), challenge them by saying they misunderstand God – He is being quite tolerant. If God were truly intolerant there would be no way for a sinner to be forgiven, but in fact, God wants to spend eternity with you so badly that He gave his only begotten son to die on a cross so that you could be declared not guilty.
Who then really is being intolerant?