Jane and Sue have been co-workers and friends for about ten years. However, some of their recent conversations have been filled with tension. Here is a discussion they had last week:
Jane: So Sue, I heard your church believes Christians will be the only people in heaven. Is that true?
Sue: Well, like most Christians, we believe salvation is only experienced through Jesus Christ.
Jane: But how can you think that? It seems so intolerant and hateful.
Sue: What? OK, let’s not get into the theological issues. Why do you think this belief is intolerant and hateful?
Jane: Well, it just is. You are saying your religion is right and all other religions are wrong.
Sue: OK, it’s a little more complicated than that, but why is that belief intolerant and hateful?
Jane: It is just. You are saying everyone else is wrong. That is intolerant!
Sue: No, it’s, not Sue. That is disagreeing with people of other religions. Tolerance is about respecting those with whom you disagree and treating them fairly. If everyone agrees, there is no tolerance. What would be intolerant is insisting everyone agree with you.
Jane: But, that is what you are doing!
Sue: No, I’m not. I believe Jesus is the only path to salvation, you believe there are multiple paths. We disagree. I would be glad to discuss why I think you are wrong, but I am not going to try to force you to change your mind. I respect your right to have that opinion. I suspect the real question is whether you respect my right to have my opinion? Some opponents of traditional Christianity claim they are “intolerant of intolerance.” However, they are simply intolerant of traditional Christianity.
Jane: Well, maybe we should be intolerant of some things.
Sue: Yes, I agree. For example, I don’t think we should tolerate those who abuse children. If someone chooses to embrace Hinduism, however, that is his or her choice. I respect a person’s right to do that. I think embracing Hinduism is a wrong choice, however. I hope people respect my right to believe that certain choices are wrong.
Jane: But, you think Hinduism is a wrong religion. You believe Hindus will miss out on God’s salvation and spend eternity in hell. That is hateful!
Sue: No, it is not hateful. I don’t have any animosity toward Hindus. I don’t wish them ill. In fact, I don’t want them to miss out on God’s salvation. That is why I want them to become Christians.
Jane: Now, I suppose you will tell me that you actually “love Hindus.” It is not love when you try to get people to abandon their religion.
Sue: Well, I certainly should love Hindus. The more I love them, however, the more I will want them to become Christians. When you love people you want them to make good choices. You warn them against destructive choices. I do that with my children all the time. I think you do too.
Jane: Well, it still feels intolerant and hateful to me when people say Christianity is the only true religion.
Sue: I am sure it does feel that way. The fact, however, is that those making that claim may be wrong, but they are likely not intolerant or hateful.
The above conversation is fictional, but illustrates truth we need to remember.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church