Since I work well with progression (and I'll move from less to more Christ-like), I want to use some words I hear that describe Christians sometimes.
- Prejudice - an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. I know Christians like this, and I bet you do too. We will all admit, however, that Christians should never be prejudice. Its not technically a crime. There is no charge-able offense in simply thinking in a prejudice way. But that doesn't make it right. Prejudice Christians size someone up before they even meet them. This is mostly where we go wrong. That guy dressed funny on the corner? He isn't worth as much to our church as the pin-striped CEO right? Or maybe we have a problem with different ethnicities or pedigree? And one more thing - the second you think you aren't prejudice, please step back, quit being so defensive, and ask yourself how you can know someone better. Because chances are prejudice is the opposite of knowledge - the less you know, the more likely you'll be prejudice. And the best way to know someone...is...well...know them. Talk to them. Be around them. Get to know who they are. Don't read about "their kind" in a book. That doesn't count. But once you stop being prejudice, you might become...
- Tolerant - a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. (I would say, tolerant, but that definition is simply having tolerance, which gets us nowhere.) Christians are sometimes called bigots. A bigot is someone who is completely intolerant of another person who is different. Well - are we bigoted or not? I think its a simple question. Because regardless of whether you ARE or AREN'T, if someone else thinks you are, their perception is enough. Sorry, back to tolerance... Some people think Christians should be tolerant. Christians should be fair, objective, and permissive. Hmmmm. For others, tolerance sounds like a dirty word that immediately labels anyone who is tolerant as "liberal" which sometimes could be used as a four letter word. Whichever way you feel about tolerance - you are in luck, Christians aren't supposed to be tolerant any more than they are supposed to be prejudice. Sure, being tolerant is better than being prejudice, but its not where we stop.
Imagine if Jesus were tolerant of Romans. Sometime tells me he would not have welcomed Centurions into his fellowship.
Imagine if Jesus were tolerant of sinners. He would have kept them at arms length and not actually eaten with them or laughed with them or shared God's love with them. See, people who are tolerant allow other groups of people to exist concurrently with little to no care for what happens to them. Christians that tolerate non-Christians really don't give a rip for those they tolerate - or else we wouldn't call it tolerating them. Christians should always be welcoming. They blur the line between the haves and the have-nots. They purposely try to reach out to those who have been pushed to the outside.
Truth is, Jesus was never tolerant. He was more than that - he was loving.
- Loving - (and btw, there are 28 different definitions according to the dictionary I'm looking at, but I picked the one that applies) a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. Could you imagine what would happen if Christians stopped tolerating and started loving? The Kingdom of God would happen on Earth. If I were personally attached to someone different than me, that would alter the way I live. If I had deep affection for someone who didn't believe like I did, but was in my life, why would it matter if they think differently?
Well, I will grant you that this is not easy. This is a tough teaching that you and I will have to wrestle with. But don't sell God short or yourself short by playing like the Church is some kind of building. We all know that the buildings are only as good as the people who are in them. God has decided not to live in buildings anymore, but in human hearts. As the Holy Spirit moves in you and you become more like Christ, the church goes wherever you go. SO! Don't just be tolerant, be loving, and welcome someone into your life (the Church) that maybe you are pushing out.
I actually preached about this issue this weekend with Acts 10:32-48 - the sermon is below. Be more than tolerant! ;) ha!