Everyone in our world today notices that there is a very popular word that floats around out there in our culture, and that’s the word “tolerance.” It has become the supreme virtue, that you are to be a tolerant individual, accepting of all views. And if that’s the supreme virtue, then of course the supreme vice is to be intolerant. Anytime there is a whiff that you may be critiquing another view or saying another view is wrong, then you will be quickly labeled intolerant. Well, that’s a difficult world to live in as a Christian because as Christians we don’t think that truth is relative. We don’t think truth is up for grabs. We don’t think that every view is equally true.
And in our world we get labeled intolerant as a result. So how do we handle that? How do we handle these labels of intolerance?
One of the things we certainly want to point out is what we mean by saying that Christ is the only way may not be what is heard by our audience. When we say Christ is the only way, they may think that Christians think that Christians should have the only legalized religion. No, we don’t agree with that at all. We don’t think Christianity can be coerced or forced by political powers.
We certainly want to tolerate all views in our culture, by that meaning that everyone is free to speak and have their views. We want to make sure that’s clear. What we mean when we say Christ is the only way is that we don’t think that truth is relative. We do think that Christians have an answer to the deep questions of life, and we don’t want to just say all views are equally the same. What we mean when we say Christ is the only way is that we don’t think that truth is relative.
Another thing we can do in response to this discussion of tolerance is point out that even the person we’re arguing with is intolerant. In fact, ironically, they’re even intolerant of our intolerance! And so there’s this weird irony to the debate. The very people who claim to be the most tolerant are often the very people that offer scathing rebukes of anybody who steps out of line. So there’s this odd inconsistency there, and I think it’s fair for Christians to point that out, to say, “Look, you you claim you’re tolerant. You claim that we’re intolerant, but yet you have to realize that as soon as you say that we’re wrong for doing what we do as Christians, you also therefore are exhibiting intolerance.”
At the end of the day, what we find ourselves in in our culture is in this weird position. We have a culture that says all views are accepted, but they won’t accept the one view that says it’s the only right one. Christians will be tempted to compromise there, and I hope we take a lesson from the early church on this. Early Christians felt the same pressure, to bow to the Roman gods and to admit that Christ is just one of many gods, but they didn’t give in. And my prayer for our modern world is that we not give in, that we stay the course, even if we get heaped with scorn for doing so, that we will continue to affirm that Jesus is indeed the only way to God.