Teaching Christian tolerance

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the “Ducky Dynasty” show on A&E, has been in the news this week for his comments about homosexuality and his faith.  He’s not alone.  Last year Chick-Fil-A ruffled feathers by supporting the biblical definition of a family unit.  Kirk Cameron has time and again been chastised for his biblical views on marriage.  My Facebook “News Feed” often gets clogged with opinions in support or in opposition of these happenings.

I’ve been thinking a lot through all of these situations.  I think about it from two perspectives that overlap: one as a Christian and one as a mother.  I realize that as I raise my children, I’ll have to contend with some issues that my own parents didn’t.  When I was a child, nobody talked about being gay.  Well, I’m sure people did, but the topic wasn’t mainstream like it is now.  I don’t remember it coming up much if at all.

Here’s the truth.  I don’t believe in gay marriage.  I don’t believe that gay relationships are OK.  My Bible says otherwise, and mine is not a faith that picks and chooses parts of the Bible.  (Please don’t stop reading here.)  However, I also don’t think this makes me intolerant.  Intolerant has a very negative connotation.  Its definition is simply, “not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.”  I do respect that people have beliefs different from my own, but I can respectfully disagree with those beliefs and still get along with and love the person who holds them.  Don’t we all do that to some extent?  The world is comprised of so many different people that we find few along the way whose beliefs are the exact same as our own.  For everyone else, we respectfully disagree and still coincide. Or at least we should.

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Does everyone Christian who believes gay marriage is wrong act respectfully?  No.  Does everyone who believes it is right act respectfully?  No.  And therein lies the problem.  When I say that I don’t believe in gay marriage, many folks immediately conjure the image of those who are disrespectful and hurtful.  That’s not me.  I have people in my life I love who are gay.  And you know what?  They really are just that: people.  I may not agree with all of their decisions, but I have a lot more heterosexual friends who make more decisions I disagree with.  People are people.  And people deserve love and respect.  If I look at my whole Bible, as I do, I also find that it tells me to love my neighbor as myself.  It also tells me to be in the world and not of the world.  So, I love while still maintaining my beliefs.  It is completely possible.

The other issue that tends to pop up is that of being judgmental.  Many say that because I say something like this is wrong then I’m being judgmental.  Again, I personally call hogwash.  I will be completely honest and tell you that as a teenager and young adult, I did struggle with being judgmental at times.  Then my perspective started shifting as my worldview grew.  Things changed as I got to know more diverse people.  I realized that like I said before, we really are all just people.  I am no better than anyone else.  To me, that’s what being judgmental is.  Judgmental is being pious and asserting that one has never done any wrong.  I have made wrong decisions in my life.  As Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  I can’t cast any stones.  I can still have my beliefs, though.

These are the things I’ve thought about as a Christian.  And when I use the term Christian, I mean it as someone who has a personal relationship with God.  I don’t use the term lightly.  I use it as someone who asked Christ into her heart at age 10 and has been trying to live for Him and like Him ever since.  I use it as someone who messes up along the way, as someone who is completely fallible.  I use it as a way to define my beliefs that are based on the Bible, which I believe to be the living Word of God.

And if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I also work to instill Christian beliefs in my children.  Right now my daughter is 4 and my son is still a baby at 10-1/2 months old.  For now, obviously, we have instilled more in our daughter, but our son will follow suit.  We’ve taught her to pray.  We’ve taught her that God loves her.   We’ve read her Bible stories time and again.  We give thanks to God as a family.  She understands as much as she can at 4 years old.  She loves Jesus and loves learning about Him.

As time goes on, I know the issues will get much tougher.  One day we will have discussions about gay marriage, premarital sex, alcohol, drugs and more.  My children will face these issues just as I did.  So, I’ve been thinking about how I will teach them to hold true to their beliefs while still loving those around them.  When I read the Bible, I see Jesus as Someone who didn’t compromise His beliefs and loved those around Him whether they had the same beliefs or not. In fact, He usually sought out and loved those with different beliefs.  This is the example I want to follow, and the example I want my children to follow.

I firmly believe that through Him, I can teach them to know right from wrong with no gray areas based on the Bible while still being tolerant of and loving those around them.  It starts with my own attitude and life.  I pray for grace and strength to be an example for them of what is right.  And I pray that God keeps me accountable when I start to slide the wrong way whether that means becoming more complacent or becoming judgmental.

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