Been Labeled Intolerant?

3 Ways to be in the World, but Not of it
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Lunchtime.

You're hanging with a friend, and you have 15 minutes to kill before the bell rings for fifth period. And your conversation takes a turn—to religion.

Your friend says, "There are lots of ways to find God."

"I don't know about that," you say. "You know, Jesus says he's the only way. That's what I believe."

Your friend looks irritated.

"How can you say that?" your friend says. "People can find God any way they want. As long as you find God, that's all that matters, right? Sometimes you Christians think you've got all the answers. You're so intolerant."

Before you can say anything, your friend walks off in a huff. The sting of those last two words rings in your ears:

So intolerant.

You're angry and sad at the same time. Angry that your friend wouldn't give you a chance to respond. Angry that, once again, you've been misunderstood. And sad that your friend just doesn't "get it."

But you've heard the accusation before: Intolerant.

You just sigh, pick up your backpack, and head for your locker to get ready for English class …

"Tolerance" is in these days. At one time, that would have been a good thing, at least when people understood what "tolerance" really means—recognizing and respecting other people's beliefs, even if you don't agree with them.

One thesaurus says that "forbearance," "mercy" and "patience" are synonyms for "tolerance."

Unfortunately, that's not how most people view tolerance today. To many people, the "politically correct" definition of "tolerance" means to consider everyone's beliefs, values and lifestyles as equally valid.

Obviously, this definition goes a few steps too far: Not only does everyone have an equal right to his or her beliefs, but all those beliefs are equal. Today's "tolerance" even goes so far as to say that all "truths" are valid. That's why, if you say "Jesus is the only way," many people will label you "intolerant"—because you're essentially saying that only one truth, the truth of Christ, is valid.

There are a lot of problems with today's definition of tolerance. First, it's illogical, because it says all "truths" are equal. If you believe 2+2=4 and your friend believes 2+2=5, one of you is wrong—no matter how much you argue that you both know the "truth."

Second, today's "tolerance" assumes people have a right to not be offended. But something isn't wrong just because it offends people; it's also wrong because it offends God. For example, lashing out in anger isn't wrong simply because it hurts people; it's also wrong because God says so (Ephesians 4:31).

Here s how you can practice true tolerance:

1) Choose your battles. There may be tons of things happening around you that offend you. But you can't speak out on every issue; you'd get exhausted, and besides, you'd earn a reputation as someone who's always criticizing something. Choose a couple important issues to take a stand on, and certainly, take a stand whenever your faith is attacked. But don't think you have to protest everything that isn't "Christian."

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