Ask A Pastor
By Rev Syd Osenbaugh
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
Tolerance is a word that sparks all kinds of interesting discussions these days. Whether within the work place, in the business community, or in the church it can elicit very strong opinions on both sides of the debate. There is a tension between free exercise of one’s personal beliefs and the concern about inappropriate discrimination. So how does tolerance fit into the life of the believer?
In its basic form, ‘tolerate’ means to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference. More simply stated, it involves recognizing and respecting the beliefs and practices of others. Several significant cases have made the news in recent months of Christian business owners who have declined to participate in business arrangements that violate their beliefs. Should this be permitted, or is it discrimination?
Let me present you with a scenario. A Christ-follower owns a sign company. A customer arrives at the place of business with an order. It is for a sign for their daughter’s high school graduation party. The sign should read, “Congratulations on your graduation, Sarah!” The sign is made. Some time later, that same individual comes back to the store and desires to place another order. This time the owner chooses to decline. You see, the customer is an atheist and the request is for a sign that says, “God is dead!”
The customer was an atheist when placing the first order, but there was nothing about wishing his daughter well that creates a conundrum for the believer. This is not a personal vendetta against the individual. This is not even an issue over the customer’s beliefs in any way. The issue is one of the store owner’s faith – someone whose beliefs should also be recognized and respected!
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. There are also numerous admonitions throughout Scripture against blaspheming the Lord. To create a sign that propagates blasphemy would violate these principles. Jesus also stated that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. It is imperative that believers act in love towards others. Creating a sign that celebrates a significant life event for this customer is certainly in keeping with that.
In all our dealings in life, whether they be in business or in our neighborhoods or families, our guiding influence as believers should be God’s word. How does our behavior line up with His will as expressed in the Bible? Can we reflect a loving Savior to a hurting world by looking down our noses on them because they don’t (yet) love and serve Him? No. But neither can we reflect His power to forgive sin if we compromise His Word. A believer must first love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind and then reach out in love to all those he/she encounters. That’s living like Jesus would live.