The right way to express intolerance

Jim Ramsay

As Sydney Anglicans intensify "connecting' throughout this year we will obviously encounter people who hold different views of the Lord Jesus.

Some people will reject him outright. Others will maintain that he did not rise from the dead, or that he is not God. Again, others will deny that Jesus endorses conflicting moral and ethical positions.

How do we respond?

The good news is that we must never even consider rejecting these people (even metaphorically burning any of them at the stake!) So what is to be our response?

How will you express your intolerance?

You will need to be brave. What I am about to ask you is going to take some courage.

On the one hand ‘tolerance’ is extolled from the winning lips of a Miss Universe contestant, movie stars and school teachers. It would be a brave person who spoke against it. I want you to be brave.

There is a necessity for intolerance.

Allow me to explain. It's not that tolerance should be expunged from our vocabulary but that we should rehabilitate a correct view of intolerance to its rightful place.

Making intolerance necessary is a highly unacceptable statement which is made all the more so since God agrees with it.

After all it was He who clearly said, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20). He did not tolerate rivals. Hundreds of years later the Lord Jesus left his disciples in no doubt. Concerning the false teaching of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:12) he was most adamant. He did not tolerate their error.

Does this re-open the door to religious violence? Does this give a boost to bigotry and discrimination?

Not at all.

Open questions: how to disagree respectfully

It can be really difficult sharing in a conversation with someone who has diametrically opposing views. It is made all the more difficult when the views are blatantly wrong or blasphemous.

Should we let our discomfort or our disagreement show?

We want the person to come to a right view of Jesus and his plan for our lives. So how do we politely and courteously open up the conversation without sounding, or behaving, like a bigot?

One way is to have some carefully constructed questions on hand such as, "How long have you had that view?", or "What helped you to arrive at that view?", or “That’s an interesting view of the world. Would you like to hear where I am coming from?”

When an "open question' is asked in the right way, and at the right time, it moves a conversation along in a positive way. It is not arguing and it definitely restricts bigotry and intolerance. In fact, it is not without possibility that the same question could be asked of you in turn.

It is because we do not tolerate false views of Jesus that we want to prayerfully help people have a correct understanding of him. It is one thing not to tolerate falsity or error. It is another thing entirely when we lovingly attempt to help people see the error of their beliefs and get them to question their own position.

How will you express your intolerance? Will you be willing to do so if the opportunity arises?

Be brave!