If I could describe my generation – millennials- in one word… well that would be really hard. But one of the words that springs to mind when I think of my generation and our world today is tolerance. Tolerance is a word that is tossed around in lots of different ways and in every sphere of society, especially in developed nations. The dictionary defines tolerance as: “the ability to withstand or tolerate something; particularly the existence of opinions or behaviors that one does not necessarily agree with”. Another word for tolerance is acceptance. Millennials, as a whole (there are always exceptions) are very tolerant people. They fight for acceptance of people, and opinions, even though they may be different from their own. They desire a world in which difference are embraced and celebrated. They desire an intersectional society that supports anyone and everyone and does not pass judgement for someone else’s choices that don’t affect them. And that is often the way they want their church to be. Tolerant. Accepting.
You don’t give your heart in pieces.
Now when I read that description above of tolerance, it doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Accepting other people’s ideas and behaviors, even though you may not agree with them, is not necessarily something to be frowned upon. However as a church, I believe we walk a fine line between Jesus’ acceptance, and the world’s acceptance. If you read the Bible (which you should, we all should) there are lots of things in it that Jesus says: “don’t do that”. It’s not just a guideline, like you probably shouldn’t do that, but it’s a clear don’t do it because it will keep you from being with Jesus. We say at church all the time that sin keeps us from Jesus, but in this increasingly tolerant world I see people beginning to say “well what really is considered sin?” The thing is, we don’t have to guess. Jesus tells us, in the Bible, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s also pretty clear in the Bible, that sin is sin. No one thing is worse than another. If God asks us not to do it, and then you do it, that’s pretty bad and you’re going to need to repent before you can be with him. Tolerance in an extreme sense would question this. When we become completely tolerant we begin to say “well that’s just their opinion/behavior that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t make it bad, so I should accept them and it’s okay.” But no, if it’s sin, it’s not. We as a church should be unafraid to recognize sin in our lives turn to Jesus, rather than just dismiss it as a “difference of opinion”. Jesus didn’t dismiss sin. He died for it.
You don’t give your heart in pieces.
Something else that I would argue, about acceptance, is that sometimes the church needs a little more of it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the commandments and teachings of Jesus, and all the things he told us not to do that we miss the part where Jesus was crazy. I mean, he was crazy in lots of ways, but mostly he was crazy in the way that he broke boundaries to love everyone. Literally everyone. If you look at the pharisee’s reactions to some of the things Jesus did, you see how culturally out of the box Jesus was. He sat with people who were considered the scum of society, like Zacheus, and he loved them. He reached out to the sick who were shunned, continually, like the blind man whose sight he gave back, and the leper’s he healed, and the demon possessed who he freed. He called the children, who were supposed to be seen and not heard, to sit with him. He praised the poor for giving up what little they had. He sat with and TALKED TO women, something he was never supposed to do. He talked to and loved gentiles. Jesus was RADICAL. When the Bible said that God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only son, it meant the entire WORLD and everyone who was on it. And if you know much about history, you know that people have been doing crazy, boundary breaking stuff that others don’t agree with for all of time. That is not some modern phenomena.
Your love’s not passive, it’s never disengaged…
Jesus was accepting. Did he encourage people to continue to live in their sin? No of course not. He gave them the power to overcome it after they met him and experienced his love. After. Jesus did not turn away people. He didn’t say “well what you’re doing is sin so I can’t save you, it’s too terrible”. He said “come, pick up your cross, and follow me”. Jesus wants EVERYONE to know him. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess. EVERY. He doesn’t pick and choose who is allowed to follow him and who is not. Because he is a good God. He pursues everyone, all of the time, even those who’s hearts are so hard that they can’t feel him tugging. He died for us while we were sinners. All of us. Even those whose behaviors and ideas you or I disagree with. He still made them exactly who they are, and he loves them. To me, this gives me hope. This gives me hope that those people I know who don’t know him, who don’t want to know him, or who don’t care, still have a chance to meet the love of my life, Jesus. Because he pursues them! He pursues that family member that you’ve been praying for for YEARS. Don’t ever give up praying for people to meet him, because he wants to know them, and he won’t ever give up.
He doesn’t give his heart in pieces.
He doesn’t give up on people. He doesn’t close himself off to those who don’t care, don’t know, or whose sin seems so great in our eyes. He doesn’t give up on anyone. He wants everyone to know him. If we truly want to reach the world, to tell everyone about Jesus and win others to Christ, then we as a church need to abandon our agenda of fixing people, just a little bit. Because he made all of us as his perfect children. He accepts us right where we are. Does he call us to live higher? Of course! But that’s his job, and he’s good at it. Our job is not to tell people what they are doing that will keep them from him, but to tell them he loves them, and invite them to love him. He doesn’t give his heart in pieces, so we shouldn’t try and make it seem like he does.