Archive for Relationships

DN=: Part 6–Judgmental

Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

 You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!

 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

 If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

Romans 2: 1-13 The Message

Sorry for the long quote there, but I wanted to point out two phrases in the very same passage: “Judgmental criticism” and “righteous judgment.”  Both phrases have forms of the word “judge” in them, but they are very different.

 

It should be clear from the context that righteous judgment belongs to God alone, for God alone is righteous by nature.  Because of His unattainable righteousness and holiness, He alone has the authority to judge in the sense of meting out justice for our sin.

 

As we have talked about in Part 3, righteous DN= self-righteous.  The only way that a person could attempt to judge another’s destiny would be from a position of self-righteousness.

 

But as we have also discussed, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.  How then can the unrighteous judge anyone?  Indeed, they have already been judged themselves, not only for the sins they themselves have committed, but by the greater sin of attempting to push God out of the Judgment Seat which is rightfully His.

 

This is the difference between judgment and being judgmental—it’s all about who is passing the judgment.  God is qualified and has the authority to judge sin.  We aren’t, and we don’t.

 

EXERCISING JUDGMENT DN= BEING JUDGMENTAL

 

Although self-righteous, judgmental criticism is a problem for all people, the distinction between God’s judgment and man’s judgmentalism is relatively clear.

 

What is not as clear as it needs to be, however, is the difference between judgmentalism and exercising sound judgment.

 

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion. Proverbs 3:21 NIV

 

One of the complications of the English language is words with multiple meanings.  “Judgment” is one of those.

 

God will sit in judgment of us all; therefore, we should not stand in judgment of one another.  Yet we are to preserve sound judgment?  How does that work?

 

It’s really not that difficult when you stop to think about it.  If your judgment is toward a person and stems from motives of criticism and self-righteousness, then you are being judgmental.  This is the bad one.

 

However, if your judgment is focused toward an action or situation, and is based upon wisdom, common sense or sound reasoning, then this is the good kind.

 

Where the problems arise, is when a spirit of offense prevents the person being judged from distinguishing between the two.

 

Good judgment vs. bad judgment

 

If someone attempts to shame you for your sin, make you feel like a bad person, tells you you’re going to Hell, calls you a name, places a group label on you, or blames you for something for which you are not directly responsible because of your association with that group, then that person is being judgmental, and your offense is justified.

 

If, however, the other person is attempting to help you correct your behavior respectfully, sharing from his or her own experience a bad result from their having done something similar, calling you by your own name, looking you in the eye, emphasizing the solution instead of the problem, but most importantly, is focusing on the behavior without attempting to analyze your motives or your character. . .then you need to work past the emotional reaction of offense and listen to what you are being told.

 

Chances are this person knows something you don’t.  And they are exercising sound judgment, without being judgmental, by telling you that.

 

(Coming up next, STORYTIME! Going to do something a little different for Part 7–Hatred.)

 

DN=: Part 5–Discrimination

 

 

Discernment is the divine enablement to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong.  A person with this gift can differentiate pure from impure motives, identify deception in others, determine authenticity of messages from God, recognize false teaching and sense the presence of evil.  (Paraphrased from “Network” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.)

 

In other words, discernment is God’s B.S. detector.

 

Have you ever known someone who accurately saw something fake or sinister in a person’s character before anyone else did?  Have you ever had a friend who told you what you were thinking when you couldn’t even explain it yourself?  This is discernment at work.

 

(Remember back at the beginning of this series when I talked about people talking in code?  I didn’t forget about that.  From here on out, we’re going to defuse political correctness one code-bomb at a time.)

 

Another word with a meaning similar to discernment, in the literal sense of having the ability to distinguish differences, is discrimination.

 

While discernment is a spiritual gift, given by God to whomever He chooses, discrimination is a natural skill that can be learned and developed by anybody through careful observation and judicious contemplation.

 

It would seem, then, that discrimination should actually be a positive thing, since being UN-able to recognize differences would be a sign of a lack of intelligence or observance.

 

Nevertheless, this word has gradually become associated with “bigotry,” even though those two words really aren’t connected.

 

DISCRIMINATION DN= BIGOTRY

 

There’s a big difference between distinguishing the differences in people and treating people differently.  Paul wrote:

 

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28 The Message)

 

And also:


[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all, everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person]. (Colossians 3:11 Amplified)

 

In making these statements, Paul is instructing these early churches that although the Church is made up of all kinds of different people from different backgrounds, it is much more significant that Christ is our common ground.  Being the original Truthseeker, Paul discriminates by noting the differences, but does not show favoritism, because Christ does not show favoritism.

 

Looking at it this way, we can clearly see that bigotry is defined by emphasizing differences with the motive of boosting one’s own status over that of another based solely upon those differences.  Bigotry may START with discrimination, but it ends somewhere else entirely.

 

So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?

 

Labels

 

Whenever you refer to another person with a label instead of their name, that’s a pretty clear sign that you are crossing over to the dark side of discrimination, because you are now seeing that person not as an individual, but as part of a subset of humanity, most likely one to which you do not belong yourself.

 

Once you have identified the difference and affixed a label to it, the emphasis of that difference comes naturally.  From there, it’s a very short walk to bigotry, simply because our human nature is to justify ourselves, and the easiest way to do that is to lower our view of others.  Labels just streamline that process.

 

So how does discernment fit into this?

 

From the definitions we have already discussed, discernment is essentially God-level discrimination.  But since we have already seen that God sees all of His followers as equal in Christ, then it should be obvious that the purpose of discernment is not to enable bigotry by labeling humans and dividing them into groups.

 

Discernment is not about judging character or outward appearances, but rather motives and the behavior that arises from them.  Which leads me to my next DN=.

 

(Come back for Part 6–Judgment)

 

Doubt: Part 11–The Death of Doubt

 

Finally, THIS is the happy ending.

 

God called my bluff, and decided it was time for me to make the move to close the gap between us.  I announced my impending divorce to the church choir and tendered my resignation from the music ministry.

 

That night, as the church emptied, I hit my knees in the back of the church and finally acknowledged my need, my complete and utter dependence on the Daddy who was always there, even when I tried to run away to hide from Him.  He was with me even through the years when I publicly called his children weak-minded fools.  He was there when I lashed back at Him in anger for everything I assumed was His fault.

 

God waited, and watched.  When I finally turned around to face Him, he was right there where he had been all along.

 

Doubt died that day, once and for all.

 

There are still days when I doubt myself, but I never doubt my Abba, my Lord and my God. I have found that every time I acknowledge my weakness and my dependence, God asserts His might and power.  As He reminded Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV).

 

I have still never seen God, just as I have never seen the wind.  However, just as I have seen the effects of the wind, I have seen the effects of God.  I don’t have to try to wrap my brain around the intricacies of DNA or photosynthesis or the size of the universe to try to logically point to an Intelligent Designer.  I just have to look in the mirror and around at my home and my family.

 

I am married again, and the two of us really are of one mind and spirit.  All of my children respond to God, because they have a spiritual leader in their house that is just as much, if not more, concerned with their spiritual growth as their physical and intellectual growth.  The peace and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reign in our house.  Now to be sure, there are times that are not peaceful, challenging, and even infuriating.  All families have these.

 

However, as a family, we are now in a place where the firm foundation we come back to is our personal relationship with the God of the Universe, the salvation made possible by the sacrifice of His Son, and the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.  I see the evidence of this every day.

 

And that is all I need to send doubt packing.

 

Us and Them: Part 5–Nineveh

God displays his heart for the people he created very explicitly in the book of Jonah, my personal favorite in the entire Bible.

 

Most people know about Jonah being swallowed by the whale/big fish, but that’s not really the point of the story.

 

Jonah was on that ship in the first place, because he was (futilely) trying to flee from God.  He was fleeing, because God had told him to go and preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital.  In that time, the Ninevites were the ultimate “them” to the Israelites.

 

So after his aquatic incident, God gives Jonah a second chance to preach to Nineveh.  He gives the shortest sermon in history, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned (Jonah 3:4 NIV).”

 

But then, a curious thing happens.  The Ninevites listen!  And REPENT!

 

So Jonah goes up to a high place where he will have a most excellent view of God destroying “them” down in Nineveh.  Except it doesn’t happen, because God has heard their prayers and is giving “them” a second chance.  Jonah, being one of “us” (that is, Israel), has issues with this.  But listen to God’s response:

 

“. . .  Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:11 NIV)

 

Jonah is the only book in the Bible to end with a question.  So what’s the answer?

 

Did you notice the theme in the book of Jonah?  Both Jonah AND the Ninevites get second chances.  God does not show favoritism.  Because he made all of us, to Him, there is only “us.”

 

But here’s the catch.  We have to affirm that Truth.  God is willing to include anyone as “us,” but WE have to accept the invitation.

 

We become part of “us” by laying down our pride, which is the mother of all sin, and the creator of “them.”  We become part of “us” by trusting God with our hearts, our fears, our anxieties, even our bodies.  By submitting our will to His, he responds by meeting all of our needs.

 

Now at this point, we still have a multitude of bad habits to break (Lord knows I do), but we have an example to follow in Jesus.  His perfect love drives out fear, the constant presence of His holy spirit keeps us safe from harm (if we let Him), and if we follow Him faithfully, the hope for our future will play out in front of our eyes, day by day.

 

The key word there was “faithfully.”  We do have a part to play in this transaction.  If we allow ourselves to be polluted by the world (James 1:27), and look to the things and people of this world to meet the needs that only God can, then we will become the “them” that we had despised.

 

The Bible calls “them” sinners.  Here’s the clincher—if you look at other people and see a “them,” you are one of “them.”

 

However, if you look at other people, no matter how different they are from you, and still see an “us,” or at least a potential “us,” then that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is within you, transforming you into the likeness of the Jesus, who being one with the Father, created us to be “us.”

 

Us and Them: Part 4–Love

 

You can love your country, but since a country is an abstract concept that really only exists as lines drawn on a map, it cannot love you back.  Your country can have a strong military, but that can’t keep you safe from what happens inside our borders.  Your elected officials can promise you everything, but they themselves are not in a position to truly provide you with anything.

 

Bottom line—if you put your hope in politics, you will always be disappointed.  However, there is a way not to be.

 

For the first 33 years of my life, my needs were never truly met.  But for the last nine, they have been.  Since surrendering my life to Jesus Christ, I have experienced love:

 

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13 NIV)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  (1 John 4:18 NASB)

 

The first time I felt truly safe was when I learned and internalized these words:

 

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  (Psalm 91:5-7 KJV)

Even in my moments of weakness, when I let world events and political rhetoric get the better of me, I still hold fast to this truth:

 

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  (Psalm 118:5-6 NIV)

 

And for the first time in my life, I finally have a hope and a future (anybody who has ever bought a wall plaque at Family Christian knows where I am going with this):

 

Yes, I know that this is one of the most overused, out-of-context Bible quotes of this age.  Yes, I know that it was a specific message given through the prophet Jeremiah for specific people in a specific situation at a specific time (the Jewish exiles in Babylon in the 6th century BC).

 

But see, that’s just it.  The Jewish exiles of 2,600 years ago had the same needs that we do today.  They needed to know that God still loved them, that He would preserve and protect them, even though they were captives in Babylon for 70 years, and that they would have a hope and a future (in their case, that they would return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem).

 

Different situation, different time, same needs.  Because they were “us,” just as we all were created to be “us.”

 

This is why I emphasize “common ground” so much when writing about the concept of being a Truthseeker.  These needs are common to all.

 

I have found that all of these needs are met in Jesus Christ, and in Christ alone.  I am able to love, because He loved me first, before I even acknowledged Him (1 John 4:19).  I know that under His protection, no weapon formed by man shall prosper against me (Isaiah 54:17).

 

But most of all, I have a hope and a future.  I know (because I have seen) that my Lord has gone to prepare a place for me (John 14:2), and that a day will come when my cup will overflow with streams of living water, coming from God’s throne (Revelation 22:1)—the Day when my future will become my eternal present.

 

God wants this for all of “us.”  Christianity is not supposed to be an “us” vs. “them” proposition.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 to go and make disciples of all nations.  He didn’t say, “Go into the world, but don’t baptize or teach ‘them.’

 

(For a great example of how God really feels about “them,” come back for Part 5–Nineveh.)

 

Us and Them: Part 3–Need

Now we come to the heart of it.  There really is no “them.”  There is just one big “us.”  We all need the same things, though we need them in different ways.  We need to be loved, we need to feel safe, and we need to know that we have hope for our future.

 

However, whenever we place our trust in worldly things that divide us into “us” and “them,” we will always be disappointed, because our needs will not be met.

 

We won’t feel loved if someone hates us because we hated them first.  We won’t feel safe if we feel that someone is out to get us.  And if we feel neither loved nor safe in the present, then it becomes virtually impossible to have hope for the future.  We become depressed, desperate.  We look for somebody to blame.  So we create a “them.”

 

It doesn’t meet any of our needs to have a “them,” but at least we feel better about ourselves in the moment we are condemning “them.”  We feel better, because if there is a “them,” that means there is an “us.”  And “we” are “one of us.”

 

In other words, we feel like we belong to something.  And belonging is kind of like being loved, right?

 

So next, we want to be safe.  The only way for “us” to be safe is for “us” to protect ourselves against “them.”  Therefore, there needs to be more of “us.”  So we need to tell everybody we meet that if they’re not one of “us,” then they’re one of “them.”  And you don’t want to be one of “them,” do you?  Because if you’re one of “them,” then, well, you’re not one of “us.”

 

Does that sound a lot like the current political climate to you?  Are you as unsatisfied with it as I am?  Well, here’s the reason why.

 

You can pretend that you are loved by creating an artificial sense of belonging to an “us.”  You can pretend that you are safe by surrounding yourself with more of “us.”  Nevertheless, even if you can delude yourself that far, what you can’t do by yourself is fulfill your third need—hope for the future.

 

Enter the politicians.  They play on your first two needs by creating two teams, Republican and Democrat, or if you like, “us” and “them” (or “them” and “us,” depending on which party you belong to).

 

By declaring your party affiliation, you belong.  Then the party to which you belong will remind you that you need to be kept safe from “them,” so that you can have . . . wait for it . . . A HOPE AND A FUTURE!

 

Isn’t that politics in a nutshell?  Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was pure genius in that he distilled the fears of a nation to a single word—“HOPE.”  Then he set down the means of providing hope also to a single word—“CHANGE.”

 

Now before you go beating up on Barack Obama for the HOPE/CHANGE thing, be honest for a minute.  Doesn’t every politician do a variation of the same thing?

 

Obama’s approach was the simplest and most literal, but they all play on the people’s need to have a hope and a future.  The main difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats say the government provides hope for your future, and the Republicans say they provide the means for government to get out of your way so that you can create your own hope and future.

 

Guess what?  They’re both wrong.

 

(OK, so now what?  Come back for Part 4–Love)

 

Us and Them: Part 1–Election Season

 

Election years are a trying time for everybody, but I find them particularly painful.  As a Truthseeker, I am always looking to end arguments by finding the common ground. 

 

Unfortunately, our political process has no interest whatsoever in providing us with that.  Our two-party system virtually guarantees an us-vs.-them mindset.  This can only lead to two things:

 

 1.      Polarization, where everything the other side does is completely evil, so instead of promoting your own ideas, you waste time bashing your opponents by attacking them personally rather than their policies.

2.      When your polls start dropping from the mudslinging, and the public starts to sympathize with your opponent, then you let the pendulum swing back toward the middle and call yourself a “moderate.”  There may be such a thing as an actual moderate, but more often than not, it’s somebody that was once far right or left that has compromised his principles to curry favor with voters whose lives he cares little, if anything, about.

 

A tension that I struggle with all the time, but especially in election season, is the temptation to hate people who disagree with me politically.  The thing is, as a Truthseeker, I generally stay out of the political arena (where truth is seldom, if ever, found). 

 

However, it seems unavoidable in election season that whenever you voice a view, no matter how pure your intentions, whoever is on the receiving end of it is sure to put some kind of political spin on it.  Next thing you know, you’re in an argument.

 

As I have said before, a Truthseeker must never argue.  The minute that we are convinced that we are right and nothing can convince us otherwise, we cut ourselves off from receiving new information.  It could be that the one thing we don’t know is the one thing we need to know to lead us to the truth. 

 

Furthermore, if you become convinced that your limited knowledge is all that you need to know, you will resent anybody who is trying to educate you, because you will have the perception that he is “trying to push his views down your throat.”  Your emotional reaction will be one of hostility. 

 

What will happen next is that you will project your hostility toward that individual in that moment onto the view itself, and by extension, everyone else who holds that view.  That is how you make the election of creating a “them.” 

 

(What happens next? Come back for Part 2–Popping the Bubble)

 

Empty Glass: Part 3–Arrogance

 

Remember that common sense is just collective wisdom.  Collective wisdom, in turn, is a bunch of people that have had the same wisdom poured from the same pitcher INDIVIDUALLY into their empty glasses. 

 

Only some people don’t receive the wisdom.  This is because their glass has a lid on it.  The lid is called. . .

 

Arrogance

 

Arrogance usually comes about in this way.  A person with an empty glass gets their first sample pour from a good pitcher.  They taste and see that it is good.  Then the person with the pitcher offers to fill their glass.  Instead of accepting, however, the arrogant person says, “No, I’m good,” and slaps a lid on their half-full glass. 

 

They could have acquired more knowledge, but they shut themselves off.  Instead, they zealously protect the incomplete knowledge they do have as if to say, “My water is better than YOUR water.” 

 

If you did this with an actual glass of water, two things would eventually happen.  First, over time, the water in your glass would get stale.  Second, with the lid on your glass, you can’t even drink the stale water that you have.  So you get thirsty again.  Even worse, you can’t get any fresh water with the lid on your glass either.

 

In the same way, clinging desperately to incomplete knowledge makes your mind go stagnant. 

 

Face it—the world is going to progress whether you do or not.  For this reason, if your knowledge is at a standstill, it is actually going backward.  If there ever was a time when the arrogant person DID have superior knowledge, it didn’t stay that way for long.

 

Worse, the arrogant person is incapable of obtaining any new knowledge to supplant the old as long as he has the lid clamped down on the glass of his mind.  So the arrogant person becomes as thirsty as he was when he was ignorant. 

 

The key difference, however, is that the ignorant person knows that he is thirsty.  He will seek out a new pitcher, and is prepared to RECEIVE.  The arrogant person, on the other hand, refuses to admit his thirst and remove the lid, which is keeping his old knowledge contained. He is therefore unable to receive.

 

As such, the state of the arrogant man becomes worse than the state of the ignorant man.

 

(It gets worse.  Come back for Part 4–Stupid.)

 

Empty Glass: Part 1–Ignorance

 

As a writer, naturally I deal with words on a regular basis.  As such, I tend to analyze words more closely than the average person does.  A pet peeve that I share with many writers is when words are commonly misunderstood and subsequently misused.

 

The misused word that’s bugging me more than any other these days is “ignorant.”

 

The rampant misuse of this word generally occurs within the realm of opinions, as in, “You do not agree with my opinion; ergo, you are ignorant.” (See “Entitled to Our Own Opinion?” for more on this topic.)

 

The word “ignorant” is derived from the Latin ignorare, meaning, “not to know.”  Ignorance is a lack of knowledge; therefore, an ignorant person is someone in the state of being where knowledge, instruction, training, etc. is not present or has not occurred.

 

Since ignorance is a lack of knowledge, we may liken it to an empty glass.  There’s nothing flawed in the glass itself; it just doesn’t have any water in it.

 

So an ignorant person is the one carrying the empty glass.  There is nothing wrong with this person’s mind; they simply do not know what they do not know.  The one thing they do know, however, is that their glass is empty, and they are thirsty.  As a wanderer in the desert is thirsty for water, an ignorant person thirsts for knowledge and Truth.

 

Now when you’re thirsty, what do you do?  You get a glass and either go to the sink or the refrigerator and get a drink.  You know where to go to get what you are lacking.

 

It’s different when you’re dealing with a thirst for knowledge though.  The more ignorant you are, the more you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know that you need knowledge, but you may not know where to find it.  Life’s not as simple as getting the pitcher out of the fridge and pouring yourself a glass of water.

 

No, in life, someone else is holding the pitcher.  If the empty glass represents ignorance, then the pitcher represents knowledge.

 

Ignorance is solved by the person with the empty glass finding the person with the pitcher and asking them to pour into their glass.  This is the process known as. . .

Education!

 

When pouring water out of a literal pitcher, the pitcher gets emptier as the glass gets fuller.  With the pitcher of knowledge, however, the pitcher loses nothing by pouring out.  Not only is ignorance overcome by education, but the educated person (no longer ignorant) has now become equal to the educator with the pitcher, at least in regards to the specific knowledge that was shared.

 

There is a catch to this education process, however.  If you were getting yourself a drink out of the fridge, you know what you are pouring yourself—water, juice, milk, soda, etc.  You can see what is in the containers, or at least you can read the labels.

 

The pitcher of knowledge is trickier though.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know when you are truly ignorant, you also don’t know what’s in the pitcher.  You know you are thirsty, your glass is empty, someone is offering you a drink, so you accept.

However, due to your ignorance, you don’t have any sure way of knowing if what’s in the pitcher is good for you or not.  You may end up getting an education you hadn’t bargained for.

 

(To be expounded upon in Part 2–Experience)

 

Intolerance: Part 2–Good and Evil

 

 

There is a difference between being intolerant of people and being intolerant of evil itself.  To understand the difference, one must have a clear appreciation of not only the characteristics of “evil,” but also of “good.” 

 

From a Christian perspective, God is the quintessence of “good.”  Just a few attributes of God’s “good” character would be that he is loving, faithful, forgiving, a provider and willing to sacrifice all for those He loves.

 

Romans 12:9-21 shows that Christian love is also good.  We demonstrate this love by sincerity, hating what is evil, honoring others above ourselves, joy, patience, faithfulness, sharing, hospitality, blessing those who persecute us, showing compassion, living in harmony, being humble and not proud, not seeking revenge, doing all we can to live at peace with everyone, giving our enemies food and drink when they are hungry and thirsty. 

 

In doing these things, we will overcome evil with good.  All of these things sound a lot like our definition of tolerance

 

All except one—hate what is evil. 

 

Those on a mission to discredit Christianity and its adherents will tend to skip over the other 12 verses and zero in on that one word—hate—and say that is all the evidence they need that Christians are hateful and intolerant. 

 

But what does the scripture say?  It says to hate what is evil

 

Evil is the opposite of good.  If love, joy, faithfulness, patience, compassion, humility, gentleness, and tolerance, are good, then the opposite of these would be hatred, anger, insincerity, deceitfulness, rashness, harshness, indifference, pride and. . . intolerance. 

 

The Bible is telling us to hate intolerance.  Therefore, if our critics are condemning us for hating hatred, then what they are essentially saying is, “We will not tolerate your intolerance of our intolerance.” 

 

In addition, it is critical to note that the scripture commands Christians to hate what is evil, not whom.  By no means does the Bible suggest being intolerant toward people, only toward evil behavior (what we would call “sin”).

The key to making this distinction is in knowing what the Bible says about people in general: ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

 

In this, the Bible tells us that all people are evil by nature.  We were all created in the image of God, but none of us measure up to the standard of God.  

 

Therefore, if the Bible were commanding us to be intolerant of people, we would then be compelled to hate everyone, including ourselves!

 

For this reason, Christians are called to be tolerant of non-Christians, even as they are intolerant of evil behavior.  This makes sense only because becoming a Christian in the first place requires a recognition of one’s own evil behavior, and more importantly, of the sinful nature from which it springs. 

 

It is common sense to recognize and throw away a bad apple, but an act of foolishness to cut down the apple tree for the one bad apple.

 

Likewise, it is not only possible, but perfectly normal to judge individual acts of sinful behavior without judging the character of the person acting it out. 

 

(So how does THAT work?  Come back for Part 3–Righteous)