Saturday, August 19, 2017

Are You Intolerant?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

I’ve realized I am intolerant.
Over the past week, I’ve read a lot of posts that include phrases like “racism and intolerance are incompatible with American values.”  I agree that racism is incompatible with the founding principles of our country.  The “Declaration of Independence states that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”   

I firmly believe racism is incompatible with being a Christian.  One of my favorite verses states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 This verse was written to address areas of racial and economic discrimination in the early Christian church. The early church leaders knew tolerating discrimination devalued Christ’s sacrifice for everyone.   While it might be human nature to devalue people of different economic, cultural or religious backgrounds, it was incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. James 2

Early Christianity was remarkable that people of all backgrounds worshiped together.  First Century society was more racist and economically divided than anything we could imagine today. While the first twelve disciples were men, a woman was chosen to tell everyone that the Messiah had risen.   Galatians 3:26  says we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We might be different but we are all loved and valued in our Father's eyes. One of the most beautiful pictures painted by a scripture verse is found in Revelation 7:9 describing a vision of heaven, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” 

All this to say, as much as I am certain that racism is incompatible with both Christian and American values, I am just as certain that I am intolerant.  I believe that much of the conflict and heartbreak today has grown out of tolerance. We have sat passively by and tolerated racism, injustice, and lies with an attitude of tolerance that has allowed atrocities to continue.

I am intolerant of racism.
I am intolerant of devaluing another person because of their race, gender, mental capacity, age, economic status, nationality, viability outside of the womb, weight, physical handicap, or any other thing that could cause us to look down on someone.  When we devalue a person based on their skin color, nationality, gestational age, or gender, we are devaluing God because every person is created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 clearly states, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  There is no doubt that there are remarkable differences between the 7.4 billion people in the world but I believe he made us different colors, genders, heights, aptitudes, interests and temperaments so in our diversity we get a taste of His vastness and we reflect His beauty and creativity.

I am intolerant of lies.
I am intolerant of disrespecting ourselves and others by lying to ourselves and to other people.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and I hate that He twists the truth so that we sacrifice the blessings God has for us for cheap imitations of love and happiness that devalue Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and devalue His Word. Psalm 119:128

I am intolerant of injustice. 
Proverbs 20:23 states “The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.” While I am certain life is not fair, as this blog about Job’s suffering points out, one of the reasons God set up the Law in the Old Testament was to provide justice and a safeguard for His people, including women and children and to protect immigrants who were of different races.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 makes this clear, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

 While laws like “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, foot for a foot” seem incredibly harsh to us today, 3,500 years ago when this law was given, it was remarkable because it limited retribution.  Rather than a tit for tat battle that says, “You hurt my eye, so I am going to hurt your eye and kill you cow” spiraling out of control like a gang war or generations of conflict we see in parts of the Middle East, the Law created a system of justice.

If we tolerate injustice, lies and discrimination; our hearts grow hard and insensitive to the Holy Spirit and a feeling of hopelessness and victimhood takes hold among those who are mistreated. Anger grows and violence explodes just like a pressure cooker that wasn’t used according to the directions.  God gave us very clear directions.  We are to love him and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Matthew 22:37-39  As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. It is time to repent of not following His directions and hold each other accountable. 

My tendency when faced with bad things is to be passive.  I freeze up when someone is telling a racist or sexist joke. I know it is weak but I don’t know how to respond.  Confronting lies, calling out injustice, denouncing racism, and actively valuing every person is hard.  It is scary and can upset people but I have realized that just as James denounced favoritism in the early church in Jerusalem and Paul argued against racism and sexism in the Galatian church in Greece, each of us have this same responsibility.

Dear Jesus, I am sorry for being complacent and tolerant of sin in my life.  I am sorry for not confronting racism, injustice, sexism and the Devil's lies. I am sorry for not standing up for those who do not have the resources to stand up for themselves. I am sorry for valuing comfort over listening to the Holy Spirit. Please forgive me and show me how I should love others as I love myself. Amen

 Are you intolerant?  How do you intentionally value everyone?  How do you confront lies?

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