Is Christianity intolerant?
A friend of mine some time back told me that he could never be a Christian because Christianity was intolerant. I think that what many people call intolerance in Christianity is actually exclusivity. Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Our Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” That is totally exclusive. Only those men, women, and children whose faith is in Jesus Christ are true Christians and are recipients of what Jesus Christ accomplished by His death on the cross and resurrection (i.e.; justification, adoption into God’s family, sins forgiven, Christ’s righteousness imputed, atonement, eternal life with Christ, etc.) All others, whose faith is not in Jesus, are damned to an eternity of torment and darkness. This is the exclusivity of Christianity.
What God teaches in His Holy Word is an exclusive faith: justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the Bible alone is our primary source for all of faith and practice, and all of our lives should be lived for God’ s glory alone. If anyone does not believe this, then they are not a Christian.
This being said, throughout all of the Bible – all 66 books written over 4000-5000 years of human history – reveals to us God’s marvelous tolerance towards all men. He is long suffering, through millennia, not willing that any of His children should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Christians are taught that we should love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to peacefully and lovingly coexist, as much as lies within us, with all others. Does this sound like intolerance? We are at peace with God and strive for peace in this world.
Is there intolerance in the Church of Jesus Christ?
Obviously there has been, and still is, intolerance in the Church. There are three reasons for that: there are congregations of people calling themselves Christian but are not; there are people in the Church who are not, and never have been true Christians; and there are true Christians who, out of pride, think, say, and do intolerant things.
Without getting into too much theology and ecclesiology, there are some congregations who call themselves Christians but are far from believing in justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the Bible alone is our primary source for all of life and practice, and all of our lives should be lived for God’s glory alone. We recognize these non-Christian churches as Christian Cults. They violate God’s moral law (the Ten Commandments) and His commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a systemic violation of God’s law found in the official teachings of the congregation.
Within true Christian Churches, those who believe, teach, and preach God’s Word, and administer the Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there are a mixture of wheat and weeds. The weeds are those who have said all the right things and jumped through all the right hoops to be members of the Church, but whose faith is not in Jesus Christ. Non-believers in the Church, by nature, are filled with pride and hate towards others who do not agree with them or are somehow noticeably different from them. As a result, they do not speak or act lovingly towards them.
The wheat in the Church are those who are true believers, but who struggle daily with pride and arrogance (which in all honesty is most of us), and thus occasionally speak and act intolerant. We are called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves all the time, but we occasionally fall into the sin of intolerance. This is one of the reasons we meet together every week in Christian worship where we are disciplined by God through the preaching of His Word and receiving Holy Communion. We repent of our sins, hear God’s words of absolution, receive encouragement and correction through the preached word, and receive spiritual strength at His Table. We are then sent out into the world to sin no more.
Sometimes it is hard to see the difference between the weeds and the wheat.