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“Listen to God's View of Tolerance"

Rev. Dr. Claudia Brantley
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Dr. Brantley earned her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Erskine Theological Presbyterian Seminary.  Her first solo pastorate was in an African-American Presbyterian USA Church (she is Caucasian).  She was later installed as Associate Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in her hometown.   The Spartanburg Herald-Journal has published religious articles she has written for over ten years.  Her work has appeared in Mature Living, Christian Reader and Lookout Magazine.  She has a published dissertation and also a book, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy, she wrote on her spiritual journey of becoming an ordained Southern Baptist Minister.  Claudia has written and preached sermons and been a Bible teacher for many years.  She is married to her childhood sweetheart and they have three married children and eight grandchildren.  Claudia is a previous Amy Writing Award winner.

Tolerance is a word that is being used a lot in our society today.  Perhaps as Christians, we need to take a look at how God's Word would have us define tolerance, rather than leaning on our own understanding or listening to society's definition.


My professor of preaching at seminary used to make this statement: "When you prepare a sermon for your people, you need to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other."  You might be asking, "Why did he make that statement?"  He was making the point that God is at work in our world today and the Bible has many statements and prophesies regarding what message God is trying to give to His people concerning the kind of life they are to live.  The Bible speaks to what goes on in the world today, especially on moral issues.  Perhaps in our society today we have forgotten that God is a Holy God and also wants His people to be holy.


This point came home to me when I recently read in the paper about a Gay Pride Proclamation a local mayor was going to make during an upcoming Gay Pride March in the town.  This resolution will read: "The city of______supports efforts to ensure that everyone has the right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace" and "Pride Week celebration contribute to reducing discrimination, isolation and barriers faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and two-spirited community."


While I agree that everyone has the "right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace," I am reminded that, as Christians, we have a higher authority that dictates our values and lifestyle.  God has told us through His Word, the Bible, that the homosexual lifestyle in any form is wrong.  Romans Chapter 1 is very clear on this point.  It was during a study in the Old Testament, I realized one of the reasons God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was because of the sin of homosexuality.  Just what does it mean to be "tolerant" and yet maintain the integrity of God's Word?


Josh McDowell, a modern day Christian apologist, wrote a book called "The New Tolerance."  He defines the new tolerance in relation to the traditional tolerance. 


Traditional tolerance is defined: "To recognize and respect others' beliefs, practices, etc., without sharing them," and "to bear or put up with someone or something not especially liked."  This is the attitude the Apostle Paul was expressing in I Corinthians 13:7, when he said that "Love endureth all things."


The Word of God makes it clear how Christians are to act toward others, even those outside the faith.  We are to respect the rights of others, learn from other cultures, live peaceably with others in spite of differences and accept other people regardless of race, gender, nationality or creed.  Accepting people and accepting their lifestyle (whatever it is) are two different things.


Traditional tolerance values, respects and accepts the individual without necessarily approving of or participating in his/her beliefs or behaviors.


The new tolerance states that every person's beliefs, values, lifestyle and perception of truth claims are equal.   There is no hierarchy of truth.  Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal, and all truth is relative.


Traditional tolerance asserts that everyone has an equal right to believe or say what he/she thinks is right.  The new tolerance says that what every person believes or says is equally right, equally valid.  So (they say), not only does everyone have an equal right to his or her beliefs, but all beliefs are equal, all values are equal and all truth claims are equal.


The Bible makes it clear that NOT all beliefs, lifestyles and truth claims are equal.  Scripture teaches that the God of the Bible is the true God, that all His words are true and that if something is not right in God's sight, it is wrong.  This is not just the view of Hebrew culture or Christian culture or Western culture:  It is the truth according to God, who rules over all culture, as revealed in God's Word.


According to the new tolerance, you must agree that another person's position is just as valid as your own.  In order to be truly tolerant (they say), you must give your approval, your endorsement, your sincere support to their beliefs and behaviors.  This view undermines a person's faith in the living God and His Word.  Christians cannot and should not condone a lifestyle that is contrary to Scripture.


In the Scriptures, God has presented to humankind absolute truth---truths that are for all people, in all places, for all time.  Murder and adultery are wrong for all people.  Stealing and lying are wrong for all people.  Kindness and compassion are right for all people.


The Rev. Billy Graham in his sermon titled "The Sin of Tolerance” said, "We have become 'tolerant' about wickedness in high places, immorality, crime and even godlessness."  He goes on to say, "Jesus was 'intolerant' about sin, and the way of salvation, hypocrisy and selfishness."


Can it be that the Christian church is surrendering to the ideas and ideals of the new tolerance on four fronts; in leadership, in culture, in the seminaries and in the pews themselves?


As I have reflected upon these changes in our culture, just in my life span, I am reminded once again that the Apostle Paul, many years ago wrote in Romans 12:2 that we are "not to be conformed to this world" or "allow the world to squeeze us into its mold."  It is a constant battle in my heart and mind to keep focused on the truth according to the Word of God, but that is my heart's desire.  We must stand true to the Word of God.


Perhaps it is time to take the admonishment of Ephesians 5:14 to heart: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you and give you light."


Printed June 12, 2010; The Spartanburg Herald-Journal;  Spartanburg, SC


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