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Intolerable Tolerance

I’m a fan of outspoken Christians.  From the Apostle Peter to Jon Wesley I have always held men who boldly spoke the truth in the face of opposition in the highest regard.  Add to that list Truett Cathy, the founder and owner of Chick-fil-A and his son, Dan Cathy, the company CEO.  Their company has definitely rocked the boat in recent days by coming out in support of the traditional, Biblical view of family.

You wouldn’t think that is such a big deal, but apparently it is.  It has resulted in companies like the Jim Henson company pulling their support of the restaurant chain as well as the Mayors of Chicago and Boston promising to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening franchises in their respective cities.  Add to this the vitriol of celebrities like Roseanne Barr who wished for all who eat at Mr. Cathy’s restaurants to get cancer and you have quite the cultural maelstrom.  It has even overflowed onto social media sites as one side calls for a boycott of the highly successful fast-food company as the other side organizes a ‘Chick-fil-A’ day for supporters to go out and support the restaurant on August 1.

All this back and forth has proven one thing to me: Our tolerant and accepting society will tolerate and accept any view except one that is willing to say another view is wrong.  As I have read articles related to Chick-fil-A’s stance on marriage, and the comments following, this truth has been made abundantly clear.   Words like ‘bigot’, ‘hypocrite’, ‘judgmental’ and ‘intolerant’ abound in how those who support Mr. Cathy are described.  Even when Christians thoughtfully explain that God designed mankind, relationships and marriage and knows how these things work best, they are immediately shouted down as being hate-filled discriminators of the worst kind.

All this venom towards the Cathys, their company and those who support what Dan Cathy said doesn’t surprise me, but it does disturb me.  It reveals a strong undercurrent of rage against those who are willing to take personal stands on God’s Word.   As we progress deeper into the murky waters of a generation brought up in political correctness I believe we can expect more of the same.  If this type of response can be generated by saying “I support traditional marriage” (not “I won’t serve/hire/feed homosexuals” as many have taken this to mean) then what will happen when a prominent figure outright calls homosexual activity a sin?  It seems we are on the verge of an Orwellian society that wants to prosecute not only what others say, but what they think as well.

So how do we as Christians respond when our tolerant culture becomes intolerable?  What are we to do in the face of a society that is clearly moving into a post-Christian mindset?  I think there are several ways we can still be effective without compromising our message.   But let me warn you, if you are a thin-skinned people-pleaser, you may have trouble with some of these suggestions as they call for us to be wholly different than the culture around us.

1.  Recognize our culture has many similarities to the first century Roman world. I know this might come as a surprise to some with our modern technology and supposedly enlightened worldviews, but strip away these things and you have a culture that is similar to the world Paul took the Gospel to 2000 years ago.  Rome had religious freedom and was extremely tolerant of various worldviews, with one exception:  when one worldview claimed superiority over all others.  Sound familiar?  Not only this, like our culture, the Roman Empire was rife with opportunities for sexual sin.  Temples to false gods had prostitutes that you could hire to ‘worship’ with.  Homosexuality was an acceptable practice, as was pedophilia.  Pornography was drawn on the walls of brothels and some bath houses.  It was into this pluralistic and hedonistic world that the Gospel was proclaimed with effectiveness.  We cannot be intimidated by the naysayers.  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

2.  Be bold and steadfast in the face of sin, and be prepared for persecution.  It was into this deviant culture that Paul preached a bold gospel, one that promoted what we call ‘family values’ today.  Families were to have a married mother and father and their relationship was to be monogamous.  Adultery, fornication and homosexuality were condemned outright.  This was not always met with mass conversions and applause.  Often Paul was run out of town because his message clashed with the idolatrous world-views of the day.  Ephesus is a great example of the Church having such an impact that the silversmiths who made statuettes of the goddess Diana (and yes, her temple had prostitutes, although they preferred the title priestess) started to lose income.  As a result the city was thrown into an uproar and Paul had to flee for his own safety.  Yet the church, and the message he preached, remained steadfast and strong.  We can expect our culture to rail against us as we hold fast to God’s Word.  Jesus Himself said we would be persecuted because of Him.

3.  Keep Jesus the Focus.  What has been lost in all of the hype over Chick-fil-A is that they have striven to keep Jesus the center of what they do.  They are not open on Sundays, a restaurant’s second to third most profitable day of the week.  Why?  So employees can worship (if they so choose) with their families at the church of their choosing.  Mr. Cathy has taught Sunday School for decades at his home church in Georgia.  Their support of Biblical marriage is not a political or marketing strategy, it is an outgrowth of who they are as a company that values the teachings of Jesus.  We as Christians can’t get so caught up on the issue of homosexual marriage that we lose focus on the cross of Christ, because if we aren’t seeing Jesus, then neither is the world we are trying to reach.  Let’s make sure that when we confront sin we also point to the Forgiver of sin, Jesus.

4.  Don’t Take it Personally.  It is so easy when discussing topics of a volatile nature to take it personally, especially when someone stoops to personal attacks rather than discussing the topic at hand.  My challenge to those of you who share my faith is please, don’t take it personally.  Jesus stated the world would hate us because of Him.  It’s not necessarily us that people are attacking, they are attacking the Truth of Jesus within us.  God is big enough that name-calling and other petty attacks can never diminish who He is.  As God’s children we must be careful not to respond in kind.  When we resort to personal attacks we defame the name of Jesus and destroy our effectiveness as communicators of the Gospel.  Confront sin.  Defend the Gospel.  Avoid childish remarks.

5.  Love those who Persecute You.  Yes, I just went there.  That hot-headed guy who just called you a bigot?  Love him.  That lady who thinks your views on marriage are primitive and said you were a Neanderthal?  Love her.  The smarty-pants college kid who is still young enough to think he knows everything who just likened your intelligence to his pet hamster’s?  Love him.  And don’t just love them, pray for them.  Pray for them and treat them with respect, even if they haven’t earned it.  Give them nothing they can accuse you of save staying resolute upon the rock of God’s Word.  In this way, even those outside of the church may come to respect you and will more readily listen to the message of Life you carry.

I hope this helps you through the current fray.  This may be an isolated event, but I believe it is just the first of many outbursts that will take place against those who uphold Christian values.   For now, I will take comfort in the fact that I serve the One who has overcome this world, and I might just have to go get a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A while I wait for His return!

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2 thoughts on “Intolerable Tolerance

  1. Very well stated and just the kind of thing I needed to read. I can feel my blood pressure rising when I read some of the comments and I have been earnestly praying for the right attitude towards those who make the comments. Thanks!

  2. Great thoughts Dave! The comments about not taking these things personally are very encouraging. As we take a firm stand for the truth and deal with the backlash from society, we can be inspired by the apostles’ example when the Jewish leaders beat them for preaching–they celebrated the fact that they were “counted worthy” of being mistreated for the sake of Christ (Acts ch. 5). I don’t suggest that we should go deliberately looking for trouble or picking a fight with the world, but when it happens (and it will in this world), apparently we should be honored instead of angered!

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