A response letter to J. Preston Drake’s Forget Religious Tolerance – Embrace Spiritual Empathy. (Drake is an editorial writer for the UCO publication The Vista).
Drake, I want to explain to you a few flaws your argument has to me. As I begin, I understand that you do not know my upbringing or background, and I do not know yours. I am going to use Scripture references to support many of my statements, not because I cannot think for myself, but because I believe in the Word of God. I want to start with five definitions and why they contradict each other (I understand that is what you were going for, but they contradict more than I think you realize).
Empathy and Zeal. Spiritual empathy. This is what you fight for throughout your article. But in order for this to happen, you say that I must lose my zeal. Let me explain why this cannot happen. I do not follow Christ because it is easy, because it’s not. I do not follow Christ for my parents; faith is an individual choice. I do not follow Christ because it is popular; I follow because I believe. If I have true faith in my decision to follow Christ, wouldn’t that mean that I should be passionately pursuing Jesus with all that I am? If I truly believe in Him, then I should have ‘great enthusiasm’ for my faith. I should want to share it, live it, speak it, do it. Anything less than that and I would hardly call myself a true believer.
So what you are asking me to do when you tell me to lay down my zeal is to not believe what I believe in with as much passion and faith as Christ calls me to. If following Christ were easy and everyone were going to Heaven, there would be no purpose for my zeal. But, that is not the case. Because of sin, humanity needs to know about Jesus, and I’m not going to be quiet about that. (Matt. 10:27, Matt. 5:16, Matt. 28:19-20, Rom. 10:14-15).
Open-minded and Prejudice. As you see, these two are opposites in definition. But let me explain to you why I am not prejudice toward other people/religions. Basing my faith on the Bible, I believe it to be fully True. The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and without Him, we cannot get to the Father (John 14:6). It also says that we receive salvation through faith alone, not works (or any other way), but by believing in the power in the name of Jesus. (Eph. 2:8-9, Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:9).
By putting my faith in the Word of God, I am to recognize that there is no other way to Heaven but through Jesus. By having firm faith in what I believe, that does not make me prejudice; that makes me a believer. I do not hate someone because they have a different faith than I do (I mean a true different faith, not affiliation). But I would, however, share the Truth with them, just as I would expect them to do to me if they are a firm believer in their faith.
Tolerant. Here is why I can have religious tolerance: because I do not have to agree with the other religions. I can love the people without loving what they worship. Just like I can love my family even when I don’t always agree with the choices they make.
I have family members who do not follow Christ, but I don’t look down on them because of it. I do, however, maintain my character. I do not want to be a different person around them simply to make them more comfortable. Yes, I am respectful and mindful to not make them uncomfortable, but I am not going to hide my passion for my faith for anyone. Just as I don’t want to be one person at church, one at work, one at school and another in public, I refuse to hide the zeal that I have for my Savior.
Final Thoughts. Throughout your piece you desire for peace more than tolerance. You make the point, “While most religions are now more tolerant, straying from the righteous path can lead to conflict with family, friends and community.” To me, I think you are saying that the righteous path is Christianity. But I want to point out, that there are many who stray to Christianity that cause conflict. Galatians 5 is one of my favorite passages that deals with the division and conflict of the spirit and flesh. “17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.” (Gal. 5:17) While this passage is talking about one person battling the desires between Spirit and flesh, it also shows the bigger picture of humanity fighting between the Spirit and flesh. They are in constant conflict. There will be constant conflict until Jesus’ Second Coming.
To close. In your last paragraph, you state, “But in the absolute worst-case scenario, after such an exchange, humanity would find itself with a comprehensive and wide-reaching mutual understanding.” You are talking about gaining knowledge. Or, maybe you are talking about creating knowledge. Either way, I disagree. That is not the worst thing that can happen to people if they adopt the ideology that “whatever they believe is the right way and whatever you believe is right, too.” Those who reject the Truth in Scripture and reject Jesus will be rejected in Heaven. They will find that their humanity was not about their life on earth, but what they did with Jesus. I don’t want to face The Lord on Judgment Day and realize that someone who I knew will be sealed eternally without God. I will not trade my zeal in for that.