Bigotry has always been alive and well, but there are times when it rears its ugly head bigtime. We are living in one of those times. Bigoty is defined as “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.”
I am deeply concerned about the deep divide developing between Americans over just about everything. No matter what my chosen religious, political, moral ideology or lifestyle choices are, there will be those who disagree with me and who have alternative views. In the past, ideology differences have been tolerated by most people. We could “agree to disagree” and still respect one another.
Remember how the word “tolerance” has been touted over the last few years as the new ideal? In one sense, we are a very tolerant society. We tolerate other people’s choices even though we may not agree with them out of respect for the other person’s ideology. But now tolerance has been thrown out the window. Bigotry coupled with civil unrest is the current practice.
We are living in a new day, quickly moving from “tolerance” to “intolerance.” If I have a view that is different from yours, you might attack and abuse me as dead wrong and out of sync with whatever your politically correct fad of the moment is. You not only reject, condemn and shame me as wrong, but you now feel you have the right to attack my character and silence me. This attack may come by way of standing outside my home shouting obscenities or seeing me eating in a restaurant and then making such a scene that I leave, or even being refused service in a restaurant because of whom I associate with. Politicians are even advocating that we rise up and attack those who are different. Like I said, we are living in a new day of intolerance.
Accepting people who are different in their religious, political or moral viewpoint is never easy. All of us have a comfort zone, a tribal mentality, we live in. Yet if pushed, there was a time when we might sit down, listen to, and talk with a person who held a radically different viewpoint. For example, as a Christian, can you listen to or talk with a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, or an atheist? Even within Christianity, we have polar opposite views – liberals versus conservative evangelical Christians, Catholic versus Protestant, or formal high church worshippers versus the free-flowing worship of the charismatic wing.
How easy is it for you to have a give and take discussion with a homosexual or a transgender person? What about a discussion with a person of a different political party such as a Republican or Democrat, or Green Party devotee?
One of the great hazards Jesus faced was constantly being bombarded with trick questions by people who had their religious ideas so set in concrete they couldn’t accept the new way Jesus’ taught about how to relate to God. Jesus never backed down by way of “who” He was as the Son of God, nor did He simply write off people because of what they believed or how they acted. No, Jesus loved them.
I will confess that loving a person who is out to crush you because of what you stand for is tough. That is why Christian love must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have that kind of love in my heart naturally. However, because my life is in “Union with Christ,” He brings His love into my life, so I can love the other person in His power.
The New Testament is filled with admonition for Christians to practice a specific kind of lifestyle. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church these words, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (4:31-5:2) If we live by these words, how different our relationships and our way of relating would be!
Jesus never meant for us to roll over when people attack us. We must stand up for what we believe, but there is a Christ-like way to do it. Sometimes we take our lumps and trust the Lord to handle the unfairness of it.
I challenge all of us to rethink how we relate to those of a different persuasion. From President Trump, to our congressional and senate representatives, to TV reporters, to the everyday person on the street, let’s tone down our rhetoric. As Christians, let’s respect all people as created in the image of God. We may not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love them. That is what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple. It is our witness.