A Truthful Observation about Uncomfortable Things…

My husband just read me an article about Rick Cole the Senior Pastor of Capital Christian Center.  As he was reading I was struck by several things that were deeply concerning to me and because so many people follow the leadership of this man and this church I feel that I must speak from my heart about these thoughts.

It is human nature to look the other way when people of power are doing questionable things, we make excuses for compromise and we try to separate what we want to believe about them from the actions that they are exhibiting. Of the many troublesome topics presented in this article, this particular quote was especially perplexing “I’m now intolerant of people who are intolerant. I’ve got to figure out how to tolerate intolerant people.” Rick Cole

Tolerance is a word that has more than one meaning and both are relevant to this conversation. Here they are defined.

  1. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, that differs from one’s own.
  2. The act or capacity of enduring; endurance

The problem with the first definition as it pertains to Christ and Christianity is that it can quickly appear as approval. Tolerance for the Christian should really be about the second definition, exhibiting patient endurance in standing for Biblical Doctrine in the face of false religions and elevated, enlightened sophisticated versions of Christianity that are not actually Christianity at all.

It is inappropriate to substitute the idea of compassion for tolerance. When we need a clear and defining example we have only to look at Jesus as He walked on earth among the broken and hurting.  Jesus exemplified over and over in the New Testament a compassionate approach to the lost, he did not tolerate them, He redeemed them! Jesus stood with the woman caught in adultery, forgiving her sin and holding up the mirror of hypocrisy to the self righteous Pharisees. He covered her in his compassion and His divine position.  He then said “Go and Sin no more.” He did not say I will stand guard at the hotel door while you commit adultery, so that you can feel my approval. Tolerance leaves you in your brokenness; compassionate redemption calls you out of your sin and into new life.

Should we be in relationship with those who embrace religious beliefs that differ from the word of God? Yes! Should we be in relationship with those who choose life styles that are in contention with the word of God? Yes! But we should not march in the parades and we should not teach in the house of false religions giving the appearance of approval. Should we meet for compassionate dialogue and debate? Yes! Should would we meet for coffee and answer difficult questions and be challenged by those same questions? Yes! But clear lines need to be drawn so that we do not blend the true gospel with false religions. It is the Christ follower who has the fresh water of life in the person of Jesus Christ to offer a thirsty world, so why are we satisfied with offering a tolerant Kool-Aide that can never truly satisfy.

We live in a media soaked culture and the desire to be seen in a positive light will always be a temptation to those in leadership as they rise to a level of popularity, to maintain that popularity or to arrive at it, compromise of biblical truth is a given. These are not new temptations, Jesus, Himself was tempted in the desert in this very way by Satan Himself and it is in His response we find the way back to truth. His final response to Satan in Matthew 4 is very simple ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’  This is the mission. Just live the mission and do not deter from it.

When I started my new job last January, I walked into a classroom of At-Risk students who for an entire semester had done whatever they wanted, to say the classes were out of control is an understatement. My first block of the day contained students who were pledging to gangs and for whom no authority was ever going to tell them what to do. It was chaos, but I am a seasoned Jr. High Teacher with a very simple mission:

  1. Provide a safe and positive learning environment.
  2. Provide quality educational opportunities for learning.
  3. Provide consequences for those who break the rules
  4. Provide positive support and feedback for proper behavior
  5. To exemplify Christ in all that I am.

As the students who had disrupted and controlled the class began to realize that they were no longer in charge there was a particularly interesting acting out that began to happen…I started to find phallic symbols all over my classroom, on desks, chairs, floor and the white board and they came in all kinds of shapes and sizes. How you handle this kind of thing defines what kind of teacher you are.

This was not my first experience with phallic symbols or a student who wanted to antagonize or control me by trying to embarrass or frustrate me. So I did what I always do I stuck to the mission and ignored the symbols. I would erase them with wet wipes as I found them and I would make sure they were completely gone at the end of every day.  I quickly ascertained who I thought was responsible but I did not go on a hunt to find out who was guilty because that would have been a distraction to sticking with my mission (You can rarely prove who it is without actually catching them in the act). I did not give into the temptation to engage the guilty party, that would have just made me look ridiculous and it would have taken me off my true mission of brining this class into productivity.

In a matter of a few weeks they disappeared and never returned. I endured the symbols until the culprit understood I could not be baited or deterred. I did not however tolerate the symbols…I did not leave them for students to notice them…I removed them. I cleaned them in service to the other students who wanted to learn and wanted to participate in class in a positive way.

In that same block I had an autistic student who had deteriorated quite a bit since the beginning of the year but as order and structure were restored in this block and learning began to happen he began to reengage and move forward. At the end of the year his mother sent me a nice note thanking me for giving her son a great start to every day. In his eyes I was a hero but to students who were now starting to wear their colors and were trying to show how tough they are I was mean and a threat. When you live the mission there will always be critics. There will always be those who do not like you. I provided the same experience for every student some chose to benefit and others chose to disrupt. But I cannot be swayed by those students who want to disrupt and destroy, I must provide fair and consistent consequence for them in hopes it will change their heart and redeem their future.

We don’t need to worry about how to tolerate the intolerant we just need to live out the mission!

Here is the mission:

15 He said to them, “Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Here is the link so you can read the article for yourself.