10/18/15 Maurice, mid-20's
“Thanks for stopping me, I think God wanted me to hear that today!” a man named Maurice told me at the end of a parking lot Gospel conversation. He was thankful not because I told him what he wanted to hear but because I told him some hard truths that were difficult to hear. Maurice had very little religious background but was assuming that since things are going pretty well in his life, then his relationship with God must be pretty good too. I had shared some hard truths, such as Paul’s warning in Romans 2 that “…because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” I told Maurice, “The only reason God has not followed through with the punishment you deserve for your sins is because He is being merciful, but you keep adding to his wrath every time you sin.” Like John the Baptist did to help prepare people’s hearts for Jesus, I had to help Maurice understand his guilt before he would understand his need for forgiveness and for Jesus. Many Christians avoid sharing hard truths like this, choosing instead just to be friendly toward others and a presence during the hard times of life, ready with the good news of God’s love when their friend is feeling down and needing to hear it. In the meantime they choose to tolerate sin and false beliefs for fear that to say anything negative would turn others off to the Gospel.
But are we really called to tolerance? When did tolerance become a Christian virtue? While I do believe we need to “choose our battles carefully”, we aren’t called just to tolerate others, to just put up with or “hold our nose” around other’s behavior we don’t like. No, we are called to reach out in love to our neighbors, and love calls us to not tolerate that which hurts them or their relationship with God. Our culture, on the other hand, often does call us to tolerate sin, to tolerate that which hurts others, and even to go the next step beyond tolerance, to actually celebrate evil! No, we as Christians simply must not obey this call from our culture. To celebrate evil as our culture so often demands and to withhold the Gospel would make us haters in the truest sense of the word. We are called to share the Gospel and to invite people into a right relationship with God through repentance and faith in Jesus. To do that means, like John the Baptist, we cannot ignore or tolerate sin. And, like Maurice, on occasion people might just understand and appreciate that our lack of tolerance for sin is really an act of love.