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adjective: intolerant
not tolerant of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.
“he was intolerant of ignorance”

bigoted, narrow-minded, small-minded, parochial, provincial, illiberal; More
prejudiced, biased, partial, partisan, discriminatory
“intolerant in religious matters”

unable to be given (a medicine or other treatment) or to eat (a food) without adverse effects.
“intolerant of aspirin”

allergic, sensitive, hypersensitive
“foods to which you are intolerant”
(of a plant or animal) unable to survive exposure to (physical influence).

I was truly crushed when a friend since childhood cut me off because according to him, I was intolerant and he had no time for people like me in his life. His accusation astounded me and left me truly speechless. Now that I have had plenty of time to reflect on this sad development, I would like to share my thoughts. I think they will prove to be relevant to you as you seek to navigate the culture we find ourselves living in these days.

Let’s talk about what lies behind the philosophy that we are to be all-inclusive and accept all perspectives and philosophies as equally valid.

This all began as I explored ways to subtly and tactfully communicate my faith to my friend. After many years apart we had found one another again through social media. It was fun and exhilarating to reconnect after more than 40 years.

Right out of the box he shared that he had been a believer but had lost his faith somehow. I took that as a good sign and proceeded to share over time, how relevant God was in my life. Eventually we got together and I felt warmly welcomed as I shared the hospitality of his home in Europe and met his family. Everything was off to a great start from my perspective.

As we spent more time together we talked about more substantive things and eventually got to where we were talking about core beliefs from time to time. I’m not sure but it seems the two issues that really rocked his boat were my positions on homosexuality and Islam.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…“
~ I Peter 3:15

I can only guess what the tipping point was. At a certain point he just went silent and then finally blasted me in an email that was not very specific but quite definitive. I tried to get at the particulars but my efforts were futile. In the end the one thing I was very clear about was that in his opinion I was intolerant and that he could do without me.

Have you ever been branded as “intolerant?” Just what does that mean and how should we feel about it? Here are some of my observations:

  1. Be sure of your motivation. Be sure you are always motivated out of love and not just a need to be right or somehow make yourself feel superior. I have seen a lot of this from Christians; no love but a lot of judgment. This always seems to be justified by the fact that God speaks about it in their favor in the Bible. Remember being right is insufficient. We also need to be humble and loving. When you cannot balance the need to speak the truth with doing it in a loving manner, it may be better to say nothing in some cases. Remember communication is not just what is sent but also what is received. Can the hearer receive your message?
  2. Earn the right to speak out. Judgment of sin is appropriate and needed but are you balanced? Do you affirm as often as you condemn? Could you be characterized as a loving person?
  3. Be a problem-solver. Are you just interested in talking about what you condemn or are you actively involved in meeting the needs of the world with the solutions found in Christ? Talk is cheap.
  4. Timing is crucial. Do you need to say it at all and in what context is it best communicated?
  5. Let other people be wrong. Those who point the finger at others are often themselves intolerant and use this as a cover for the fact that they have a different set of values. Acknowledge that other opinions exist and although they may not be equally valid, intelligent people do not always agree.
  6. Don’t burn your bridges. Be ready to forget and forgive. In my example above, I told my friend that I would stand down but continue to consider him my friend if ever needed. You may be the bridge they need to find Christ.

All of this will not solve the problems of division in our world, but they will go a long way toward showing others how they ought to behave in this intolerant culture. May God empower you as you represent Him to the world around you.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:16

I may never get back my childhood friend, but if I don’t I want to be sure it is not my intolerance or ugly behavior but his that has caused the breech.

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