I'm a sensitive person. Always have been. I remember as a little girl, my heart hurting so much from another child's cruel words (most likely a brother's). Everyone has heard the statement, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." We've all said it. We've all heard it. But me, when I said it, it was a lie. My heart was bruised every single time.
There's an ugly trend that's taken root in the American church recently. It seems that Satan has gathered up every hot-button subject he can find, orchestrated them to ignite every nerve, and tossed them out there for Christians to pounce on. The words that are coming out of our mouths, being tossed back and forth between us and the unchurched, are staggering.
Recently, I happened across Matt Walsh's blog titled "Jesus Didn't Care About Being Nice or Tolerant, and Neither Should You". I couldn't get all the way through the blog post without feeling like I was going to throw up. The idea behind Matt's post is that some of us (and I would be one of those people) have invented for ourselves a blasphemous and perverted Christianity based on the heretical false "Nice" doctrine. I don't know Matt, but the tone of the writing is a bit more than angry...
I am HATING that word these days. I wish it would just die already. Drop off the face of the earth, disappear into the depths, and never return.
showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
"we must be tolerant of others"
synonyms: open-minded, forbearing, broad-minded, liberal, unprejudiced, unbiased,
patient, long-suffering, understanding, forgiving, charitable, lenient, indulgent, permissive, easygoing, lax;
In reality, as you can see, the definition isn't something so terrible, it is?
"Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions of behavior that one does not necessarily agree with."
Hmmmm? Because where are you actually going to find a world where everyone's opinions line up with yours? And if someone happens to not share your opinion, what can you actually do to change it? Argue? Fight? Call names? Flip tables and yell? Consider physical force (as Matt alluded to in his post)?
We're grown adults. We aren't literally going to stand in the room with another person and yell at them, flip the tables, and push and shove. At least, most people I know are not going to behave that way. But on the internet, it sadly appears that anything is fair game.
But back to that four letter word: Tolerant.
But back to that four letter word: Tolerant.
Some people might look at some of the synonyms above and cringe. Conservatives might read the word liberal and think it's a four letter word. Others might read open-minded or broad-minded and roll their eyes. But what about patient, long-suffering, understanding, forgiving, and charitable? Do those synonyms fall to the wayside because liberal was in the mix? They shouldn't. Those words are in my bible and have the fingerprints of God all over them...
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
~Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
"The the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth...""
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
~1 Corinthians 13:4-7
"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
~ 1 Peter 4:8
Matt Walsh mentioned various references to back his post, one of which was Matthew 10. I spent a lot of time pouring over that chapter, so I will pause and throw my two cents in the ring.
Matthew 10: 34 (NIV) says, ”Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
I believe Matt is pointing to that verse as a reason to define Christ as a tough guy who would have been charging into battle right about now, flinging some strong words towards those of us that are touting the “nice” doctrine around and painting Jesus to look a lot like Barney the dinosaur (hey, that's what he said, but I can't stand Barney).
Yet, here’s the thing…there was MUCH more to that verse than that one simple soundbite.
Matthew 10 opens with Jesus introducing his disciples. He begins to outline for them what their life without him physically leading them on earth will be like. He teaches them how to conduct themselves during their travels as they carry out the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20). He even tells them that when they enter a town that will not listen to them, to shake them off like dirt on their feet and leave (Matt 10:14). He did not tell them to get angry and defend righteousness. He told them to simply leave. Jesus goes on to paint a rather painful picture of what life will be like for his disciples. He warns them that they will be persecuted and advises them on how to handle that.
“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (verses 22-23 NIV)
Note that once again, Jesus never tells them to fight back or defend their faith.
So, why did Jesus say he did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword? I don't believe he is being literal here, and I don't think Matt believes that, either. After all, no where in the Gospels is Jesus seen unsheathing a long blade. Instead, I believe that Jesus was talking about the aftermath of his birth, his walk here on earth, and what the world would be like after his resurrection. He did not ascend into heaven and leave his disciples in a peaceful environment. All hell had broke loose and the Romans and the Jewish leaders were on the warpath to find them and kill them. They weren’t exactly safe. In fact, where did Jesus find them when he rose from the tomb? They were hiding out, scared for their lives—and rightly so. After Judas, all other disciples were martyred for their faith (with the exception of John who was exiled).
Jesus did not come to bring peace on earth, that is true. The sword he spoke of was one of spiritual warfare; for when he was born, Satan raged and did all he could to hide Christ's light and keep him from the cross. After Christ’s death and resurrection, Satan continued on in his relentless battle to squelch and twist the truth of what Christ’s death and resurrection truly meant for mankind. That is the sword. That is the battle.
Matt goes on to point out several times in scripture where Jesus speaks out against and ridicules the Scribes and Pharisees. I think he was drawing a comparison between those that follow the “nice” doctrine and the Pharisees who didn’t truly know Jesus.
I don’t know.
I read those verses and I see Jesus reprimanding the hyper religious that had little grace for those around them. The men in those scriptures certainly weren’t being “nice”. So, for me, those points were moot.
In scripture, Jesus wasn’t reprimanding people that could be defined as nice; Jesus was correcting those that thought they knew what was right. Christ even chastised the disciples on more than one occasion. When he took the boy's 5 fish and loaves to feed the thousands, the disciples balked. He had to correct them when they were more concerned about the cost of the perfume Mary poured out on Jesus’ feet than the act of love she was displaying. But to those religious folks that knew their laws like the back of their hands, he put in their place. He called them all out when they tossed a prostitute at his feet and demanded that he allow them to stone her. He healed the crippled man in front of them, defying their strict rules about Sabbath…
Most of the times that Jesus spoke with even the hint of anger in his voice, it was not to sinners or those that chose to love him unconventionally (like Mary and her perfume), but towards those that supposedly were “good” and knew their stuff.
So Jesus isn’t nice. Matt Walsh is right. Jesus was kinda mean, at times. He was quick to jerk a knot in the tails of those that were sitting high on their self-righteous high horse. But, for the sinners, he showed compassion and grace. Yes, he pointed out their sin, but he did so in such a way that they did not feel the need to be defensive. Christ had all the right, careful, loving and graceful moves to reach the heart of those in bondage. For those that did love Christ but were more tender hearted, Jesus was nice. He also encouraged us to be kindhearted to those around us.
I am tolerant. I realize I have to live in a world with people who do not believe the same things that I do...but I can't get rid of them. I don't want to fight with them, either.
I am patient (well, actually, I am not…but desperately trying to be).
I strive to be understanding.
I am open-minded to the point that I know I don’t know everything, and most importantly, I don’t know everything about Jesus or the Bible.
I am kind (again, trying hard to be).
I want to be charitable, lenient and forgiving…
And I am holding tight to my “nice” doctrine, believing that my Jesus was very masculine, tough and a fighter. He would stand on a mountaintop and be tormented by Satan, tempted and persuaded, beaten, mocked and abused, whipped and publicly shamed…for me.
But he was tough. He endured it all. He was not weak.
My Jesus was angry when he needed to be and stood his ground. He did not allow the religious crowd to stone a sinful woman. He took her in his arms and protected her. He was strong, tough, and masculine.
My Jesus looked menacing when he overturned the merchants tables and yelled and screamed at those people mocking his fathers house. He was red-faced and violent. But he was also the same Jesus that was soft spoken and drew all the little children unto him, despite his disciples trying to keep the innocent—the insignificant—from his knee.
He is a warrior filled with love and grace. He is beautiful. He is touchable, as the bleeding woman discovered. He was (and still is) approachable, as the children knew. He was fun and and not too proud, as the tax collectors, drunkards, and prostitutes learned.
Maybe that’s why the nice doctrine is so hard for us to swallow these days? If we started acting like Jesus, we’d have to suffer a little, take the hard hits, be persecuted…but still endure it…and still do it all while loving those doing it to us.
Not too easy, right?
Not too nice.
But clearly the example Christ gave us.
Let us not be too quick to assume that we know exactly how Jesus would act today and how he would handle all these very sensitive issues. After all, the disciples were closest to him. They walked with him. They shared meals with him. They traveled the countryside with him. But after seeing him perform miracle after miracle, they did not recognize him walking out on the water to them. They mistook him for a ghost.
I promise not to make my Jesus a purple dinosaur if you promise not to make him William Wallace dripping in blood. Let’s just try to behave like he asked us to…
And he clearly commanded us to love. Period. No conditions or stipulations attached.
Not easy to do, right? It’s much easier to yell.
I’m going to be pretty honest about myself for just a moment. As sensitive as I am, and as much as I desire to be kind to others, I am no tender-hearted, weak woman who trembles when someone gets a little angry. I am the woman that took off across a parking lot to rescue a woman being beaten by her boyfriend. Thank heavens my husband was quick on my heels, because I have no idea what I actually would have done when I got there. I am the same woman that got in a drill instructor’s face when he picked on my family in the Commissary (dumb move, by the way). I have yelled at a bouncer who accused me of underage drinking (I was NOT drinking!) and told him, “Shame on you for even believing I would do such a thing!” I’ve held grieving women in my arms. I am the little girl that took up a sword (not literally) and defended my brothers with every fiber of my being. And I am the woman, that should you dare try to mess with my husband or children, I will dig out the sword that is hidden and buried in my closet (yes, THAT one is real…don’t ask) and chase you with it until you beg for mercy. All bets are off when you mess with those dear to me. So…I am not a hippie, filled with love at all times. I am pretty mean. It is a chore for me to love those that are buttheads. True story. I'm actually quite vicious. I’d rather punch you in those nose than try and be kind to you.
I know the incredible power of words.
It’s about time that we started caring about the hearts of all mankind and sacrifice our rights, laying them at the foot of the cross. Because if we do not, Satan gains more and more ground in this battle for mankind. We are building a huge wall between us and the lost with all our yelling. Isn’t that what the enemy wants? We need to be more careful with what we are saying, writing, and accusing others of. I'm no heretic. Neither is Matt. We just have a different idea of who Jesus is. But the bottom line...
We need to be shining a light on him for the world to see but all our stupid words are clouding the view.
PS: I wrote this entire post just so I could use the Gatsby meme. ;P Oh! I also have a crush on Mel Gibson as William Wallace, blood free, of course.