“In the end, aren’t all religions the same? Don’t all paths lead to the same place? If you hold your beliefs sincerely and you’re not hurting anyone else by them, isn’t that good enough? Isn’t truth for you different than truth for me? Can’t we just coexist???”
I’ve heard these specific statements, and many others like them, since I began thinking about these types of things around 7th grade. I’m sure you have heard these as well. Whether it’s a debate in a junior college religion class, a conversation at the gym, or a discussion around the dinner table at an extended family gathering, these are common sentiments in our day. I hear words like these every time I visit the drive-through at my nearest Starbucks, as I’m pulling up to order behind a Prius with a “COEXIST” bumper sticker.
To deny claims like these is seen as “intolerance” in our culture. And if you’re not keeping track, there is nothing worse than intolerance. We are told that intolerance comes from fear, ignorance, arrogance, bigotry, or just straight meanness. To be intolerant is to be on par with the worst offenders in the history of the world, because as we all know, they were all incredibly intolerant.
If you look up intolerance in the dictionary the two main definitions will be:
1. Lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs.
2. Incapacity or indisposition to bear or endure.
Now, as Christians, this second definition is one we should take very seriously. In the second sense, we should tolerate. Jesus never said “be tolerant,” but He did say and exemplify “love.” We see in 1 Corinthians 13 that love “bears all things…and endures all things.” We should bear and endure as Christians, we should love and reach out and seek to build relationships with all people. We should not walk around with the arrogance and superior attitudes that marked the Pharisees and religious types that Jesus continually and clearly denounced. The “bearing and enduring” that Jesus exemplified built bridges of redemption to those He encountered. He connected with them in love, but that love was transformative because it was informed by truth.
What about intolerance in this first definition? Are we called to “tolerate” in that sense? What does “tolerate” even mean?
The dictionary defines it:
1. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.
Is that what Jesus did?
In a word: NO.
He came to earth “full of grace and truth” (John 1). He didn’t encourage bigotry, but He clearly delineated reality. He was full of grace and love, he reached out; but He did it with, and as, the truth. This truth wasn’t the spineless, nuanced, non-definitive, subjective, “anything goes,” “truth” that we see in our culture today. This wasn’t “your truth is your truth and mine is mine as long as we’re sincere.” This was Jesus, who claimed (and proved) to be God-in-the-flesh, making exclusive, definitive claims that He was the embodiment of the ultimate reality that created and sustains the entire universe. This was the truth that apart from Him no human being can experience true, real, eternal life.
We’re taking on the Urban Legend “All religions are the same” this week at LPC. We’ll break down Acts 4:1-12 in a message titled “Coexist?” Don’t miss it-