We live in a society where tolerance is elevated to a high virtue and theological certainty is viewed as angry, narrow-minded dogmatism. This reality can bring Christians into sharp dispute with the world because, according to God’s Word, the very essence of faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
But “being sure” about some things can easily turn into “being arrogant” about everything. And, sadly, this is where many of us, as Christians, fall out of favor with those around us. Instead of speaking the truth in love, we push the truth with a shove.
I contend that we can embrace a biblical dogma without coming off as dogmatic and treating others like dogs. We can share the message of Jesus as the exclusive way to God without coming off as Grade A jerks.
In a very real sense, Jesus called us to be narrow-minded when he challenged his followers to “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). The narrow path of faith alone in Christ is, according to Jesus, the ONLY way of salvation. One preacher put it this way, “All roads lead to God; most to destruction, one to his forgiveness.”
Jesus is the only road that leads to God. If we really believe this, then we will do everything in our power to get everyone within our reach on that road.
Just a few days ago I sat in a plane next to a nice lady named Erin. In the midst of a conversation she shared with me that she embraced Native American spiritual beliefs. I dove deeply into the conversation, asking her questions while looking for common ground every step of the way. After about 20 minutes of asking questions and listening, I shared with Erin the Gospel message. She thought that the Gospel message was beautiful but she told me it was my truth, not hers.
Soon we were deep into a conversation about the exclusivity of Christ and the objectiveness of truth. She shared with me her beliefs and I shared with her the words of Jesus in John 14:6 when he called himself “the way and the truth and the life” and that no one comes to the Father except through him.
Yes, it was awkward at that point, but because I had spent so much time listening up front, we were able to navigate through the awkwardness. My prayer is that the Gospel seeds planted that day will bring forth the fruit of salvation in her soul.
I was practicing “narrow-minded, open-hearted, love-drenched intolerance” on the plane. By asking questions and listening to her answers I hope that the love of Christ was able to shine through me. But, by refusing to tacitly consent to her spiritual beliefs, the truth of Christ was able to flow through me as well.
Being loving as I share the truth of God’s Word can be a challenge for guys like me because my tendency is to want to pick somebody’s beliefs apart without loving and listening first. But, by God’s grace (and a loving wife who has coached me for the last 25 years), I am learning how to speak the truth in love.
This approach keeps us from affirming sinful lifestyles that are contrary to God’s standards in Scripture. But, at the same time, it makes us more intolerant of the sin ever present in our own lives than we are about the sin in the lives of those around us.
Jesus showed this powerful mixture of truth and love to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In a show of Messianic intervention he rushed to her defense against her accusers. Once these judgmental religious leaders all left he turned to her and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11,12).
He extended grace and stood for truth at the same time. He refused to condemn her but called her to break her sinful cycle at the same time. May his “narrow-minded, open-hearted” approach to engaging others with the truth define our lives and refine our evangelistic strategies.