Loving: Cultural Tolerance and the Church


Is the Church loving, if it overlooks sin? 

cultural intolerance in the church
So last week I wrote about a university president who had to remind one of his students that if he felt guilt over a chapel message about loving others, the appropriate response was not to complain that the message made him squirm in his seat. “We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty,” replied the president, “and we don’t issue ‘trigger warnings’ before altar calls.”

In other words, You’re a Christian, dude. Deal with your lack of love, so you radiate Christ.

Does this college student, I wonder, attend a church that gives him a pass on dealing with nudges to his conscience? If so, has his church been influenced by cultural tolerance?

Some churches, in order to be viewed as “welcoming” and “inclusive” are choosing to bypass conversations about sin. They focus exclusively on the “God loves you” message (often tacking on “and wants you to prosper”), because who doesn’t like hearing about God’s amazing, unchanging, can’t-be-earned love?

But we also need to be reminded of God’s directive that we live with wholehearted commitment to Him.

Here’s the crux of the matter: We can’t just keep soaking up that love.

We need to get to the point where we yearn to be loving like Jesus. Like that student, we need to recognize when we’re not — and then repent — not get upset that we’re feeling uncomfortable.

It can’t just be church leaders who talk the talk and walk the walk. The world is watching — and judging Christians for not living up to Christ’s standard. Society is pushing God to the sidelines because we’re not showing up, in full “fruitiness” (Galatians 5:22-23), to thwart the lack of love in this world.

Is the love real, Church?

Now, I know many wonderful, loving Christians. Good, solid people who are fully committed to representing Jesus. They do the hard work of putting themselves second, so that Christ can be first. But I also recognize that there are many “Sunday Christians” who are self-absorbed like that student. Even on Sunday morning, they have no interest in loving on the people seated in the pew next to them.

I’ve thought about this disconnect long and hard and the question I keep asking myself is, “Church, why is it so hard to be loving?”

We just sat through another sermon on love, but we still recoil from focusing on the needs of those worshipping alongside us in church? How then can we possibly find it in our hearts to lovingly serve the strangers we bump into outside of churchWe acknowledge with our heads that there is suffering all around us, but we don’t absorb that pain into our hearts. We toss some bills into the offering plate, but don’t give of our full selves. Egads, what if someone tries to take advantage of us? 

Cultural tolerance has gained significant traction in society over the last several decades because the Church often bites at being loving. Perhaps because they felt they were treated badly by a Christian, or even by a church, some people decide that the Church owes the world for its bad behavior. That the Church must be punished for failing to feel “inclusive” and “accepting” and “loving.” The Church does need to be called to the carpet for not showing Christ’s love. But it also must not bend to pressure to sugarcoat sin in order to appear “relevant.”

The Church becomes irrelevant when the power of the cross becomes irrelevant. But in reminding us of our sin, let the Church be purposed with leading people to the redemptive, inclusive, nonjudgmental power of the cross. Let us allow God to work in our hearts and minds, so that we are able to fulfill the greatest commandment He has given us: to be loving to each other as we seek to love Him with all our hearts.

Calling the Kettle Black

It is not cultural tolerance that will save the world. Cultural tolerance fails, because it operates from a skewed view of love.

Cultural tolerance says that if we are “inclusive,” “tolerant,” and “accepting,” society will reach its zenith because true love will flow. It conveniently ignores its own hypocrisy, however — and ignores the fact that it just can’t work in a society that is truly interested in the welfare of others.

I just watched a YouTube video in which a guy took a microphone to the street to ask passersby their thoughts on “safe spaces.” Specifically, he wanted to know who and what these people would allow in them. When asked if she would allow an incestuous couple — a father and daughter — into her “safe space,” one girl pondered for a second, then replied, “Like, if they’re two consenting adults … I mean, I guess so … I think people can do whatever they want.”

Shall we shout “Bravo!” at how “inclusive” and “non-judgmental” this gal was? I wish I could, but all I can see is the pain and destruction that will follow. People are blindly approving all lifestyle choices, without thinking through the consequences to both individuals and our society as a whole.

Our powerful message for the world is that Christ, by dying for our sins, offers us the complete acceptance and love we crave. Cultural tolerance is a pale imitation of the personal freedom Christ offers. Sadly, many people are choosing it over Christ, because they don’t know Him. Perhaps because you and I are not taking the time to show them Jesus through our words and actions? Let’s change that, starting today.

Thought to Ponder

What’s your thought on church these days? Is it a place you go for social purposes? A place to get pumped by the praise music? A place to be challenged? Let me rephrase the question: When you attend church, do you go to meet Jesus? And does meeting Him reaffirm your commitment to be like Him? Let us heed God’s nudges.

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell

 

This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this and other helpful resources, please visit our Store page.

 

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