Do Christians lack religious tolerance? I reject that completely! OK…just kidding. Read on…
Religious intolerance is defined as being so attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.
Intolerance is defined as not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted. Religious intolerance is defined as being so attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.
The important words in the above intolerance definitions are “not respecting”, “different than our own”, and “hostile”.
Stop Disrespecting, Start Listening
We don’t win any points for disrespecting other people’s beliefs or opinions. When we are biased and refuse to listen to others who have an opinion or belief system that is different than our own, we come across as narrow-minded and our intolerance closes the door to the relationship and lock it shut. When we become hostile with others that disagree with us, we contribute to an antagonistic, unfriendly environment. What we are left with is the animosity often perceived between Christians and non-Christians.
The Heart of the Problem
This negative Christian stereotype of being intolerant, in my humble opinion, strikes to the heart of the problem within our Christian faith. We are called to love God and love each other, including non-Christians and non-believers. The fact is we don’t love other people very well.
That’s a failing heart condition…and it shows itself when we don’t love others enough to even listen to them or attempt to learn about their beliefs (E.g. religious intolerance). It shows itself when we refuse to spend time with people who are different than us, instead of “tolerating” their company. It becomes clear when we reject an opposing argument (on a faith, spiritual, religious, or scientific topic) without considering what is true or false, what is reasonable or unreasonable. In other words, when we outright refuse to hear someone else on a topic, it shows the lack of love in our hearts. This attitude IS narrow-minded and doesn’t contribute to a positive attitude toward Christian believers. Many of the non-believers I’ve encountered WANT to hear what we think and believe, but they also want their turn to share what they think and believe. I think that’s very reasonable and fair; tolerant!
Win the Relationship, Not the Argument
So, to be more tolerant of others with different opinions or beliefs, we must first look at our hearts. We must value building a relationship more than we value winning an argument. We must LOVE first. Then, we can listen.
We can’t expect other people to listen to us, if we are unwilling to extend the same respect to them.
Here is an important message about religious intolerance that I encourage you to receive. We can’t expect other people to listen to us and our Christian beliefs and opinions, if we are unwilling to extend the same respect to them. In order for others to be open to hearing your testimony and the reason you believe in Jesus Christ, you must be open to hearing from them first. In other words, for others to tolerate US, we must first tolerate (e.g. LOVE) them.
Don’t Stop Sharing Your Beliefs
We DO have valid reasons for our beliefs. We should be sharing our Christian beliefs with others. But if you love the other person, then be open to a dialog on the topic…not just a one-sided “preachy” sermon or lecture. You might be surprised to find that non-believers will respect us more if we simply shared our beliefs and were open to them sharing theirs.
When you share something close to your heart, how do you feel when the other person rejects it? How do you feel when they nit-pick it and try to find every loophole in your reasoning? It’s no fun and is very intolerant. Now, look in the mirror. What do you do when you encounter someone with a different opinion? Do you reject it? Do you nit-pick it and look for the loopholes? Do you allow your bias to cause you to reject what they are saying without really listening? No one wins.
Be First to Listen
So, as a Christian, go first. Show tolerance to other people and allow them to share ideas they are passionate about. Be the first to ask questions and sincerely listen. Then, be ready to share your reasoned beliefs when they ask “well, what do YOU think?”