This writing is about intolerance and how it can be seen in our lives. Intolerance is an issue that should be addressed because it is so common and ordinary in society and because it prevents people from accepting eternal life. We must first see our intolerance to be freed of it.
Intolerance exists in all of us. The first important point to grasp is that we are all intolerant. Some people may believe that they are free of intolerance and prejudice, but this is surely not true. If you look closely at their lives, you will surely find prejudicial attitudes, eagerness to criticise, and expression of negative feelings towards others. This demonstrates that people who think they are free of intolerance and prejudice are actually the same as everyone else. In fact, often the people who speak most loudly against intolerance and narrow-mindedness are themselves the most intolerant and narrow-minded. Paul described the nature of this wrong attitude we all carry:
- (Rom 2:1-3) Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do the same things.
2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
3 And think you this, O man, that judge them which do such things, and do the same, that you shall escape the judgment of God?
There is one fundamental reason why people are intolerant and carry other harmful attitudes: people are evil and have original sin. Today, wise men often refuse to admit or believe this, but it is a fact; Jesus spoke about our evil nature 2000 years ago. He said that wrong attitudes and thoughts come from a person’s heart, and He should be believed. The heart is the source of greed, pride, sexual compulsions, and every other harmful attitude. It is also the source of our intolerance:
- (Mark 7:21-23) For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
What is not intolerant? Modern man characteristically presents himself as a broad-minded and liberal person – which is good in itself. It is good because the Bible often instructs us to love our neighbours and warns us away from judging anybody. If we fail to abide by those instructions – which were often given by both Jesus and the Apostles – we are not doing the right thing.
Therefore, we must love even our enemies and the people we find difficult to deal with. We must bless people, not curse them. Love is the greatest commandment and the most important issue, and thus based on these verses one can only conclude that love and tolerance are important. Therefore, there should be no intolerance, narrow-mindedness or anarchy towards others. This is not always the case in the congregation. We are still very far from perfect and from what Jesus and the apostles taught:
- (Matt 5:43,44,46) You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
45That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
- (Matt 22:36-39) Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
- (Rom 12:14) Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
- (1 Cor 13:13) And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
- (1 John 3:15) Whoever hates his brother is a murderer:and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
However, in many issues where the modern man stresses the importance of tolerance, we must ask ourselves what is right and what is wrong. We must ask what kind of behaviour is right and what kind is wrong in the eyes of God. For example, since abortion is murder and homosexuality is an act of lust and sinful, they cannot be good – no matter what someone says. They remain sins in the eyes of God no matter what we humans might say. We should not say that good is bad and bad is good, as the prophet Isaiah warned. Today, we see many modern men doing exactly that:
- (Isa 5:20-23) Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe to them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
We must love everyone, regardless of how they behave. We have no other option: if we fail to do so, we are doing wrong.
However, we should not say that all sinful behavior is good because there is a line between the right and the wrong behavior. This means that some of the things we do are not right in the eyes of God: they are wrong. Jesus mentioned some such issues in the verse from the Gospel of Mark we studied above. He mentioned fornication, theft and murder, for example, which means that this kind of behavior is not good and we will be condemned for it. There are also other similar wrong types of behavior in other parts of the Scriptures, behavior that is condemning for us and that will lead us to damnation if we continue living unrepentant. If these verses are true and the day of judgment is coming, we should take this information seriously. The verses below refer to such behavior, including practicing homosexuality, which is often justified in our society in the name of love. The verses tell us what will happen if we fail to repent our wrong behavior. So please take these verses seriously and do not consider them worthless:
- (1 Cor 6:9,10) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
- (Rev 21:7,8) He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
It is often only a question of right and wrong instead of our willingness to judge or lack of love, even if people try to say otherwise – which is what the media is trying to say at present. The Bible – particularly the New Testament -- warn people about impenitence; it is not a question of lack of love or intolerance. It is quite the opposite. It is like warning someone about weak ice: "I am worried about you. Under no circumstances should you walk on the weak ice. Something bad may happen to you."
Or if we were to warn others about the consequences of their actions, it can be quite a similar mistake as when the ship Titanic approached America and got one warning after another about icebergs. People on the ship were warned that there were icebergs ahead, and that there was a danger of collision. However, they continued the journey, being careless and indifferent. People did not take the warnings into account because they thought the ship to be unsinkable. Was this wise? Everybody knows the consequences that followed their failure to heed the warnings.
Warnings should be taken seriously, not rejected as a result of our wrongful attitudes.
Famous Finnish preacher Niilo Ylivainio wrote about this. He proved that people may be indifferent about the calling of God and described how he tried to make them understand how serious the calling is. He tried to warn others so that they would not be hurt. He had the right attitude, one full of love, towards people. That is what we need. He wanted people to be saved and he was worried about them because he did not want them to end up in damnation:
"Confusion gnaws me day and night. There is enough of it.
But I am gnawed more by those people who are going to Hell. I see a line of people, a crowd that only walks. Shout to them, explain to them, teach them, try to gesticulate and to describe that they are walking towards devastation! So what happens then? They just go! They just walk! They just slide! They laugh and walk toward the gates of Hell!
You think about “old Niilo” now, I can see it by your face. You think, “So you spoke and preached, and what of that?”
I am compassionate by nature. I have always been like that. I would so love people to go to Heaven, if it helped. But when I was younger, I tried to scare people to faith.
My intentions were good.
People say that my preaching was hard and harsh, and indeed it was. My intentions were good. I thought that if the frightfulness of the Judgment and the heat of Hell are described to people in the correct way, they will come to their senses.
Then, I still tried to prolong the moment of resolution. I asked and asked, persuaded, and tried to win time in order to give them a possibility until the very last moment. (…)
Yes, some were also saved by frightening. It worked on many. They understood that I wasn't scaring them for the sake of money, but that I was serious. Being hard, if you are blunt, has its bright sides. I was hard, because I was worried about them. I thought that it is now up to me whether these people go to Heaven or to Hell.
It was honest work in the sense that people were honestly told where they were going. Being honest was hard on me. It cost me my strength and health already as a young man.” (1)
When is tolerance necessary? People who strongly preach about tolerance are often only tolerant towards some of their favourite subjects, about which they like to repeatedly speak. Homosexuality may be such a subject.
However, when one talks to these people about spiritual issues, turning to God and God’s good plan for all of us, one can watch them become indifferent and repressive. Some even directly oppose this message – in the same way as people living in Paul’s time when they rejected the message preached and did not consider themselves to be worthy of eternal life. Is this your attitude? Are you rejecting the calling of God and Jesus?
- (Acts 13:45,46) But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.
If you think you are tolerant, ask yourself whether you are tolerant about eternal life, God and Jesus through which you can enter into Heaven. God wants what is best for you, He loves you and wants to save you – and all of us -- so that we will give up our sins. Are you ready to accept this? Are you ready to turn to God through Jesus Christ and give your whole life to Him? Shouldn’t you also consider turning toward God when He is calling you? Don’t react negatively towards the most important person in the universe.
Take into account the following words of Jesus that He spoke about Himself. Be tolerant towards Him, turn to Him and ask Him into your life when he is standing outside the door to your heart. Give up your whole life to Him and be ready to give up all your conscious sins. If you do this and trust in Jesus, you will become part of the wonderful eternal life:
- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
- (Rev 3:20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
If you ask Jesus to come into your heart then, according to the Scriptures, you are a child adopted by God and you receive eternal life. You have this eternal life, no matter how you feel at the moment. Do not base your assurance of salvation on your ever-changing emotions, but rest in the word of the Bible and on Jesus Christ, just like the anchor of a ship is never thrown inside the ship but always outside.
- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name
- (1 John 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.
13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.
THE PRAYER OF SALVATION: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1.Mauno Saari: Saarnaaja, p. 268, 269
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!