In my last article I tackled the difficult but important subject of making judgments. Many people today want to argue that you should never make a judgment about anything (they have already made their judgment on that issue). Many times people will bolster their arguments by appealing to Matthew 7:1-2, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." "See," they argue, "Jesus said it is wrong to judge."
One of the things I reiterate with my people is the concept that any text without a proper context is pretext. Such is the case here. Jesus isn't teaching that we should never judge, rather in these verses he is referring to false judgment. How do we know that? You have to look at the context of the whole. In John 7:24 Jesus says, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." Generally when someone cites Matthew 7:1, to me it is in the context that they are in fact disagreeing (thus making a judgment themselves) with something I have written or said. What amazes me is how quickly people want to use the things of the Bible they agree with, recognizing its authority while at the same time trying to deny its authority by questioning or discounting the things they find disagreeable. Thus a person will appeal to Matthew 7:1 and say in effect "Jesus said it so you can't argue the point." Yet at the same time they will take a verse like John 14:6, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,'" and argue that Jesus couldn't have possibly said that. Why? Well because they don't believe it.
We have got to stop this cafeteria line religion. It's at best intellectually dishonest and at worst spiritually deadly. You or I don't get to pick the things we like about the Bible and declare them true, while denying the things we find difficult and declaring them false. But that is exactly where a new wrinkle in the issue arises.
In our postmodern world the new god of the age is what we call positive tolerance. Positive tolerance argues that every view or belief is just as valid as any other view or belief. Let me state that such a view is an impossible absurdity; it doesn't work in life. What we have done with this dialectic is we've removed both reality and reason from our mix of thought and we have moved away from renaissance thinking and taken a giant step back into the new dark ages.
Those who argue that truth is relative depending upon the individual and the circumstances that individual finds him or herself in, have actually made a very absolute statement. What they are really saying is "What I believe about truth is in fact what you must believe about truth." In other words, "What is true for me must be binding upon you or you are in fact in the wrong."
True tolerance on the other hand is a wonderful virtue. In its real sense tolerance is the grace to put up with something we find disagreeable or false. Do I believe other religions are false? Every one of them. Do I believe they should be coerced to my point of view? Not any one of them. The Christian religion was never intended to be extended by a sword. Where that has been done, we have forsaken the very Lord we claim to follow. The draw to Christianity is love (John 13:34-35). Not a love that compromises truth or its own beliefs to keep peace, but a love that stands strong and calls people to respond to the truth.
You may look at that and call me narrow and bigoted, but if you are honest that charge must first be leveled at Jesus since he claimed to be the exclusive truth and the only way to heaven. Most people, of course, don't want to go that far, so instead of being intellectually honest, they want to pick and choose and make their own designer religions which they of course declare to be open and inclusive - that is, open and inclusive to anyone who won't dare disagree with them.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org