Intolerant Tolerance

This week, while waiting for the traffic light to change, I saw the obligatory COEXIST bumper sticker on the car in front of me; there were numerous other bumper stickers as well.  I decided to read them as I waited for the light to change.

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationAmong the many bumper stickers (in addition to the COEXIST sticker) were

Religion: Controlling Stupid People for Centuries

I’m a militant agnostic.  I don’t know and you don’t either

If facism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross

As I sat and pondered the bumper stickers, one thing hit me.  For a person who (thought they) promoted tolerance, that person was very intolerant.  It wasn’t just a case of hating religion in general, but Christianity in particular.  Why are people who consider themselves “tolerant”, often so intolerant?  Why would a person who calls on religions to COEXIST hate a particular religion (Christianity)?  It was very evident that the person who owned that car did not wish to COEXIST with Christians.

The second thing that struck me:  That person was very, very lucky that I was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and not a follower of the “religion of peace” because, as a believer in Jesus, I would not get out of my car with sword in hand and decapitate the driver and any other passengers in the “offending” car.

The third thing:  “I don’t know and you don’t either”.  Left to our own devices the person with the bumper stickers is right.  We cannot know if God exists; if he does exist, we cannot know what he is like.  But what happens if God decided to reveal himself to his creation so that we can know that he exists and, more than that, know what he is like.

The message of Jesus Christ is the message that God himself entered our world.  Paul catches the reality of this situation when he wrote the Philippians (2:5-11):
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How do I know that there is a God?  God entered our world as one of us.  How do I know God loves me?  He died on the cross in order to forgive my sins.  I do know because God has revealed himself and his attitude toward humanity to us and all of humanity.

The person who owned that car was sure that they were tolerant and I (a believer in Jesus) am intolerant.  But I didn’t (and don’t) hate that person; I don’t wish them ill; I said a prayer as I waited for the light to change that God the Holy Spirit would use someone to share Jesus’ love and sacrifice with that person so that they too can come to faith and know that there is a God and that God loves them.

But I’m still left with the fact that that person, who believed themselves to be so tolerant, was intolerant.  As the light changed, I wondered what would happen if someone pointed out their intolerance, pointed out the inconsistency, the hypocrisy of all their bumper stickers.  No, I did not follow the car, but I still wondered (and continue to wonder):  Did that tolerant person recognize their own intolerance?

Lord, keep me from hating people who are different from me.  Let me love them with the same love that you loved them, the love of the cross.  Amen.


One Response to “Intolerant Tolerance”

  1. Christopher Hazzard Says: I am not sure that bumper stickers are effective evangelism, but I’ve wondered what response a “contradict” sticker might garner.

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