6/29/12 Sarah, about 30
I was walking out of Home Depot and saw a young lady sitting outside on a bench, reading something on her Kindle. She was covered with tattoos, piercings and all manner of nose, lip and eyebrow rings, mismatched and eclectic clothes and hair dyed several neon colors. Her appearance was so bizarre it was hard to ignore, especially in the context of the Home Depot store, but when I began to ask her questions about her spiritual beliefs we went on to a normal conversation that allowed me to focus on her relationship with God and to share the Gospel. In order to do this I had to show "tolerance" - a politically correct term in our culture that many Christians have come to reject as ungodly. But before we do we need to be reminded that we ourselves are beneficiaries of God's tolerance - "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4) The reason why this word is being rejected is that it has begun to take on a new, unbiblical meaning. It is coming to mean simply the lack of strong beliefs or opinions of any kind, and those who do have strong beliefs are then labeled intolerant. But tolerance really means that we are to exercise kindness and patience with those whose views or lifestyles we disagree with. This doesn't mean we should have no strong beliefs. That verse on God's tolerance in Roman's 2:4 is sandwiched between verses about His righteous judgment and the day of His wrath, which helps us to understand even more how precious His tolerance is! As we share our faith, we are to be tolerant as we go out into the world and ignore objectionable behaviors and attitudes in order to focus on what is really important in the lives of non-believers. Personally, I thought Sarah's extreme appearance was vain and self-indulgent. But I chose to tolerate it because it would only be a distraction from what she really needed to hear about - living in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus.