3/24/16 Jordan 25
What does it mean to be a tolerant Christian? Is it even possible to be tolerant and stay true to the Gospel? I believe it is not only possible, it is a requirement if we are to share Gospel truths without letting our own intolerance become a distraction.
A recent conversation with a fiery young man named Jordan is a good example. I had reached out to him at the park while he was walking his dog. As we talked he emphatically stated that churches are wrong in their view of Jesus and that it is only through strict adherence to Old Testament Jewish law that one is saved, rather than by God's grace through faith in Christ. Of course I disagreed, and shared some verses to refute this belief which he promptly misinterpreted. We had to agree to disagree.
Then as we kept talking I found our more. Jordan is Mexican, not Jewish, but is part of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group that believes African people are descendants of the ancient Israelites and inheritors of God's Kingdom. Jordan takes it a step further and says all people of color are Jewish descendants, and that Mexicans in particular are descendants of the Israelite tribe of Issachar, which Jacob described in Genesis 49 as a "rawboned donkey", one who would "…bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor." The association with donkeys and bending over to labor has led Jordan to believe this is a reference to his own Mexican people, and thus set apart as one of the tribes of Israel and included as God's children. He believes white people of European ancestry like myself are descendants of Esau and children of the Devil. Again, I didn't agree with his obvious misinterpretation of scripture.
So did I need to be tolerant, or should I have gotten into a heavy argument? "Tolerant" is defined as "showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." To refuse to argue does not mean I was in agreement with Jordan. I let him know that when I nodded or otherwise affirmed him as he talked, I was just showing that I understood, not that I was in agreement. He appreciated the chance to explain his beliefs, and was more willing to listen to mine as a result.
Colossians 4:6 says "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Just as we don't pour salt carelessly over all the food we eat, the truths of the Gospel need to be shared carefully and gracefully. I had to bite my tongue often in conversation with Jordan. In fact, he did perhaps 80% of the talking. But to speak up against each of his beliefs that were contrary to scripture would have sent our conversation down so many rabbit trails - and resulted in a bitter argument - so that the truths of the Gospel could not have been shared. In the end, I told him I believe he is sincere in his beliefs, but sincerely wrong, and he believes the same about me. We didn't argue, and Jesus was proclaimed. I'm not sure I could ask for much more than that.