Are Christians Intolerant?

religious Intolerance, tolerance, intolerant
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Do Christians lack religious tolerance? I reject that completely! OK…just kidding. Read on…

Religious intolerance is defined as being so attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.

Intolerance Defined

Intolerance is defined as not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted. Religious intolerance is defined as being so attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.

The important words in the above intolerance definitions are “not respecting”, “different than our own”, and “hostile”.

Stop Disrespecting, Start Listening

We don’t win any points for disrespecting other people’s beliefs or opinions. When we are biased and refuse to listen to others who have an opinion or belief system that is different than our own, we come across as narrow-minded and our intolerance closes the door to the relationship and lock it shut. When we become hostile with others that disagree with us, we contribute to an antagonistic, unfriendly environment. What we are left with is the animosity often perceived between Christians and non-Christians.

The Heart of the Problem

This negative Christian stereotype of being intolerant, in my humble opinion, strikes to the heart of the problem within our Christian faith. We are called to love God and love each other, including non-Christians and non-believers. The fact is we don’t love other people very well.

That’s a failing heart condition…and it shows itself when we don’t love others enough to even listen to them or attempt to learn about their beliefs (E.g. religious intolerance). It shows itself when we refuse to spend time with people who are different than us, instead of “tolerating” their company. It becomes clear when we reject an opposing argument (on a faith, spiritual, religious, or scientific topic) without considering what is true or false, what is reasonable or unreasonable. In other words, when we outright refuse to hear someone else on a topic, it shows the lack of love in our hearts. This attitude IS narrow-minded and doesn’t contribute to a positive attitude toward Christian believers. Many of the non-believers I’ve encountered WANT to hear what we think and believe, but they also want their turn to share what they think and believe. I think that’s very reasonable and fair; tolerant!

Win the Relationship, Not the Argument

So, to be more tolerant of others with different opinions or beliefs, we must first look at our hearts. We must value building a relationship more than we value winning an argument. We must LOVE first. Then, we can listen.

We can’t expect other people to listen to us, if we are unwilling to extend the same respect to them.

Here is an important message about religious intolerance that I encourage you to receive. We can’t expect other people to listen to us and our Christian beliefs and opinions, if we are unwilling to extend the same respect to them. In order for others to be open to hearing your testimony and the reason you believe in Jesus Christ, you must be open to hearing from them first. In other words, for others to tolerate US, we must first tolerate (e.g. LOVE) them.

Don’t Stop Sharing Your Beliefs

We DO have valid reasons for our beliefs. We should be sharing our Christian beliefs with others. But if you love the other person, then be open to a dialog on the topic…not just a one-sided “preachy” sermon or lecture. You might be surprised to find that non-believers will respect us more if we simply shared our beliefs and were open to them sharing theirs.

When you share something close to your heart, how do you feel when the other person rejects it? How do you feel when they nit-pick it and try to find every loophole in your reasoning? It’s no fun and is very intolerant. Now, look in the mirror. What do you do when you encounter someone with a different opinion? Do you reject it? Do you nit-pick it and look for the loopholes? Do you allow your bias to cause you to reject what they are saying without really listening? No one wins.

Be First to Listen

So, as a Christian, go first. Show tolerance to other people and allow them to share ideas they are passionate about. Be the first to ask questions and sincerely listen. Then, be ready to share your reasoned beliefs when they ask “well, what do YOU think?”

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  1. says

    This is really a difficult subject to take on – but you’ve handled it well. On the one hand, if we’re intolerant we may lack the love of Jesus for one another. But on the other hand, if we are tolerant we run the risk of courting heresy. How to find that delicate balance (oft called the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin syndrome) is the question. Perhaps a forum like this will help us gain some traction in evolving a practical answer.

  2. says

    Christianity is not about me or you. It’s about Jesus Christ. It’s not about what I think or what you think. It’s about what Jesus thinks. Have we forgotten the First Commandment? Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is a very narrow minded admonition. 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” One mediator, no others. I’m not saying that we should not be kind and generous and helpful to others. Indeed, we are to love our enemies! Love them, not hate them. Help them, not harm them. It is not people that we should be intolerant of — it’s sin. We must be intolerant of sin, first in our own lives (and that is a HUGE project to deal with), and only when we have dealt with our own sin, we might be in a position to help others. Again, it is not what you or I think that matters. It is what God thinks. We are to look to Scripture, to tolerate what it instructs us to tolerate, and to not tolerate what it tells us to not tolerate. It’s really not all that complicated.

  3. Kasey Harris says

    My favorite Bible story that always demonstrates this principal to me, is the one of the woman at the well. She was considered very sinful, even alienated by her own people. When Jesus met her, knowing her sins, His first words were not of hate, they were engaging. “Will you give me a drink” She was startled that He would even speak to her. Imagine how we could do this ourselves, engaging others in conversation first, before we express what Christ has done for us. I think some Christians confuse the fact that listening, means I accept.

  4. Josh Tollison says

    Right on, Brad. I know many non-Christians who I would consider to be my dear friends. The only way I’ve gotten my foot in the door with them when it comes to my faith is by loving them where they are and for who they are and not placing an unnecessary burden of guilt on their shoulders. God convicts, not us. We are called, I believe to share the truth in love, but NEVER in such a way as to suggest that we are somehow superior to them. The greatest witness is a heart filled with supernatural love and that comes from learning humility.

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