Introduction"Christians are intolerant because they try to tell other people what to do and what to believe," is a common complaint from those who have been witnessed to by a zealous Christian. Although the actions of Christians are often interpreted as intolerance, the primary reason why Christians are seen as intolerant is because the perceived, politically-correct definition of tolerance has changed over the years.
The "intolerance" of Christians is a direct result of the teachings of its founder Jesus Christ, who, today, would be described as one of the most "intolerant" people to live...
What is intolerance?To begin the discussion, it would be good to know what the word "intolerant" really means, in order to determine if Christians really are intolerant:
Main Entry: in·tol·er·ant
Date: circa 1735
1 : unable or unwilling to endure
2 a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
The really remarkable thing about the definition of intolerant is that those who say we Christians are intolerant and should not express our religious beliefs are the ones who actually fit the definition. Tolerance is not about accepting every one else's beliefs, but merely being willing to listen to those beliefs. In contrast to many other religious beliefs, evangelical Christians rate quite high on the scale of being willing to discuss religious beliefs on a moment's notice.
Tolerance vs. truthTolerance does not mean that we automatically accept every one else's beliefs as being true. Contrary to popular belief, religions do not teach the same things, and, so, they can't all be true. Belief, in and of itself does not make that belief true. Ravi Zacharias, a Christian writer, warns, "Truth cannot be sacrificed at the altar of pretended tolerance. Real tolerance is deference to all ideas, not indifference to the truth." Christianity is the prime example why all religions cannot be true. Virtually every other world religion, other than Christianity, teaches that a person can become acceptable to God on the basis of their actions in life. In contrast, Christianity teaches that no person, no matter what they do, can become acceptable to God through their own actions. In Christianity, acceptance by God is based upon the completed work of Jesus Christ, through belief that His sacrifice makes us acceptable. Therefore, Christianity and other religions cannot all be simultaneously true, since they teach opposite ideas about how one becomes acceptable to God. A Christian cannot accept other belief systems as being true and still maintain his own belief system, since they are directly contradictory.
The Christian is most often claimed to be "intolerant" when he refuses to accept and speaks out against "alternative lifestyles," such as cohabitation or homosexual behavior. Again, this is an improper use of the word "intolerant." Tolerance does not require acceptance of all ideas as being true, but merely a willingness to hear alternative beliefs. Those who say that Christians should not express their beliefs are actually the ones who are being intolerant, since they are unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression to Christian beliefs (see definition above).
Jesus was "intolerant"The supposed intolerance of Christians is a direct result of the teachings of its founder Jesus Christ, who, today, would be described as one of the most "intolerant" people to live. Although Jesus was loving and associated with all kinds of people, He was not "tolerant" of their "alternative lifestyles." Jesus confronted immoral behavior directly, and even had the audacity to tell people to stop practicing their sinful behavior.5 In addition, Jesus commanded his followers to "make disciples of all the nations... teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,"6 and "preach the gospel to all creation."7 Jesus did not say to accept other religions as being true. In fact, He made one of the most "intolerant" statements that any religious leader has ever made:
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. (John 14:6)
This statement alone reveals that all other religions and religious ideas cannot be true. No religion other than Christianity claims that Jesus is the only way to God. Therefore, either Jesus was telling the truth and He is the only way to God or He was a liar and Christianity is false.
Evangelical Christians, in their zeal to follow the commands of their Lord, may seem to be over-enthusiastic and judgmental. However, in believing that Jesus is the only way to God, we want everybody we meet to understand their choices and the consequences of those choices. Love requires that we share the message of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. The good news is that all people can enter into a personal relationship with the God and Creator of the universe through belief in Jesus Christ.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16, Jesus Christ)