Christianity and Tolerance by Jonathan Falwell

I imagine that many Christians have asked themselves how they can find a balance between living a holy life while also reaching a level of tolerance and Christian influence among non-believers. We know that we are called to be separate from the world and its influences, but we are also called to be representatives of Christ to others. And so it becomes a kind of balancing act that Christians must achieve in order to simultaneously live out both of these dictates.

I read with interest recently how Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, went on CBS This Morning to answer some key questions about the issue of tolerance, a term he says that has been redefined in recent years.

When asked about issues such as same-sex marriage, Rick answered this way: “The problem is that tolerant has changed its meaning. It used to mean ‘I may disagree with you completely, but I will treat you with respect.’ Today, tolerant means, ‘you must approve of everything I do.’ There’s a difference between tolerance and approval. Jesus accepted everyone, no matter who they were. He doesn’t approve of everything I do, or you do, or anybody else does, either. You can be accepting without being approving.”

I think this is a well-thought-out description of how Christians need to be behaving in this morally ambiguous age. My dad often said, “we should hate the sin but love the sinner.” That’s what Christ did while He walked this earth, and it’s what Christ still does as He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

We, as followers of Christ, must continue to convey the saving message of the Gospel to all people. At the same time, we need to make sure that we are not condemning people to the point that they will not open their ears to the call of the Savior. It is a tricky world in which we live and we must be always seeking God’s wisdom in how we live. It behooves us, as representatives of the risen Christ, to be prayerfully attempting to live out our faith so that we are constantly drawing people to Him, instead of pushing them away.

Upside Down Toast

“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’.” Matthew 4:17

Have you ever made a piece of toast, slathered it with butter and strawberry jam, and just as you’re about to take the first delicious bite, you drop it on the floor? I’m embarrassed to say this has happened to me more than once, and the toast inevitably lands facedown! Who wants upside-down toast for breakfast?

It may be a silly illustration, but it makes me think that we are like upside-down toast. We are fallen creatures, born with the DNA of hell. Our first instincts in most situations are usually wrong. Our responses are almost always self-serving. And it’s not until God picks us up that we can begin to realize His lofty purposes and plans to turn our upside-down life right-side up.

In Matthew 4:1-21, we learn about the early days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His first sermon was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). For hundreds of years, God’s people had been “living in darkness . . .  [in] the shadow of death” (Matthew 4:16). Jesus came to rescue them and us from our fallen, messed-up existence. What was the first step to recovery? You guessed it—repentance.

Repentance is not a “how to turn your life right-side up” method of self-improvement. When Jesus pleaded repentance, He wasn’t offering a good idea or a cool suggestion. It’s important to keep in mind that the Greek word for “preach” in this text means “to herald,” or to proclaim with authority. In the days before e-mail and Instant Messenger, a “herald” would travel from village to village to proclaim the king’s edicts. The herald did not form discussion groups to poll the opinion of the people. Rather, he authoritatively proclaimed the message of the king.

None could be more authoritative than Jesus Himself. When the King of kings traveled through the villages preaching, His message came with the highest authority, and as such we would do well to take it seriously—to repent of our fallen ways and to yield our upside-down instincts to the right-side-up ways of His kingdom.

Repentance is never an enjoyable experience, but vulnerability is the key to victory. When we allow the Savior to pick us up and reveal the mess we’ve made of ourselves, it’s only then that we can begin to live a useful, productive life that brings pleasure to our heavenly Father.

You may be like upside-down toast, but the good news is in Jesus Christ you don’t have to stay that way!


  • At what point in your life did you finally and fully realize that you were upside-down? What circumstances were you going through at the time?
  • Have you repented and surrendered to God and allowed Him to pick you up? If so, when did this take place?
  • Do you feel as if you’re upside-down again? Remember, after God picks you up, you will always belong to Him and His kingdom. But practically speaking, your sinful nature will cause you to fall again and again, requiring a continual heart of repentance. According to the principles outlined in 1 John 1:9, you can begin by confessing your sins. Then receive God’s forgiveness and invite Him to “purify [you] from all unrighteousness.”


Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation . . . —2 Corinthians 7:10

Conviction of sin is best described in the words:

My sins, my sins, my Savior, How sad on Thee they fall.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight . . .” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.

The Lion’s Roar

“The lion has roared— who will not fear?”—Amos 3:8

The Torah portion for this week, Vayeshev, is from Genesis 37:1—40:23 and Amos 2:6–3:8.

The connection between the Torah portion of Vayeshev and its Haftorah lay in the similarities described in the beginning of the reading. The prophet Amos described the people of Israel as immoral, unethical, and unjust. To prove his point, Amos gave the example of the people selling out the needy for a pair of shoes – a clear allusion to the ten brothers who sold Joseph and used the money to buy new shoes for themselves.

In both readings, there is a severe lack of brotherly love. The prophet warned the people that their behavior would ultimately lead to everyone’s destruction – just as the brothers’ cruel act toward Joseph eventually landed them all in slavery. This is one powerful message of the Haftorah.

But there is another message – one taken from a verse at the end of the selection. The prophet asked, “Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey?” (Amos 3: 4). And then, “The lion has roared—who will not fear?” The first message of the Haftorah may have been about sin and deserving punishment, but the second part is a warning that punishment is on its way. God sends us many warnings, like the roar of a lion, which warns other predators that prey has been taken – move on or face the consequences. When the enemy roars, said Amos, we had better listen.

And this is why this verse has my undivided attention. Israel’s enemies are roaring, right now. As our Prime Minister has often said, “History has taught us that when our enemies threaten to destroy us, we ought to take them seriously.” But are we?

The president of Iran has openly declared his intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. America would be his next target. He is getting closer to nuclear capabilities every single day. The clock is ticking, the lion is roaring, “who will not fear?” But the world sits and waits.

Friends, the time to take Iran’s threat seriously was yesterday. But here’s what we can do today. We need to make drastic changes, inside and out. We need to re-commit our hearts to the Lord and repair our shortcomings. And then, we must do whatever is in our power to cage the roaring lion. What every person can do is different, but it will take each one of us for change to happen.

God has given us the lion’s roar as a warning. We would be foolish to turn a deaf ear to it. It would be wise to heed the call for action.

Meeting A Brother Who Had Been Wronged

In time Jacob became very wealthy, and he had large flocks, slaves, and asses. But he heard Laban‘s sons say, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from that which was our father’s he has gotten all this wealth.” He also saw that Laban did not act toward him the same as before. So Jacob rose and put his sons and his wives upon the camels and drove away all his cattle. He deceived Laban, for he did not tell him that he was fleeing away. So he fled across the river Euphrates, with all that he had, and set out on his way toward Mount Gilead.

Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau. And he gave them this command, “Say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob declares, I have lived with Laban and have stayed until now. I have oxen and asses, flocks and slaves, and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may win your favor.'” The messengers returned to Jacob with the report, “We came to your brother Esau, even as he was coming to meet you with four hundred men.”

Then Jacob was greatly alarmed and worried. So he divided the people that were with him and the flocks and the herds and the camels into two parts and said, “If Esau comes to the one and attacks and destroys it, then the other which is left can escape.”

Jacob also prayed, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear that he will come and attack me and kill the mothers and the children.”

Then Jacob took as a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels and their young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female asses and ten young asses. These he put, each drove by itself, in the care of his servants and said to them, “Go on before me and leave a space between the droves.”

He gave those in front this command: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? and where are you going? and whose are these before you?’ then you shall say, ‘To your servant Jacob; it is a present sent by him to my lord Esau; and Jacob himself is just behind us.'” Jacob also commanded the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, to make the same answer, and to say, “Jacob himself is just behind us.” For he said to himself, “I will please him with the present that goes before me, and then, when I meet him, perhaps he will welcome me.” So he sent the present over before him; but he himself spent that night in the camp.

Later that night he rose up and took his two wives, his two maid servants, and his eleven children, and sent them over the river Jabbok.

Jacob was left alone, and one wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he did not win against Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob’s hip was strained, as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let thee go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall be no longer Jacob, but Israel, which means Struggler with God; for you have struggled with God and with men and have won.” So he blessed him there. And Jacob called the place Penuel, which means Face of God, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life has been saved.”

When Jacob looked up, he saw Esau coming with four hundred men. And he put the maid servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and her son Joseph in the rear. Then Jacob himself went in front of them, and he bowed down to the ground seven times, as he drew near to his brother. Esau ran to meet him, threw his arms about his neck, and kissed him, and they wept.

When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob answered, “The children whom God has so kindly given me.” Then the maid servants with their children came up and bowed down to the ground. Leah and her children also came and bowed down, and afterward Joseph and Rachel came up and bowed down before Esau.

Esau asked, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” Jacob answered, “To win your friendship, my lord.” Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have.” But Jacob replied, “No, if now I have won your favor, receive this present from me to show that you are my friend. Take, I beg of you, the gift that I bring to you, for God has been generous to me, and I have enough.” So he urged Esau until he took it.

Then Esau said, “Let me at least leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But Jacob replied, “What need is there? Let me only enjoy your friendship, my Lord.” So Esau turned back that day on his way to Seir.

“Abide with us; for it is toward evening” (Luke xxiv. 29).

In His last messages to the disciples in the 14th and 15th chapters of John, the Lord Jesus clearly teaches us that the very essence of the highest holiness is, “Abide in Me, and I in you, for without Me ye can do nothing.”

The very purpose of the Holy Ghost whom He promised was to reveal Him, that at “that day, ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you,” and the closing echo of His intercessory prayer was embraced in these three small but infinite words, “I in them.”

Is it for me to be cleansed by His power
From the pollution of sin?
Is it for me to be kept every hour
By His abiding within?

Is it for me to be perfectly whole
Thro’ His anointing divine;
Claiming in body, and spirit, and soul,
All of His fulness as mine?

Wonderful promise so full and so free,
Wonderful Saviour, Oh, how can it be,
Cleansing and pardon and mercy for me?
Yes, it’s for me, for me.

Just Kids

After high school, Darrell Blizzard left the orphanage where he grew up to join the US Army Air Corps. World War II was in full swing, and soon he faced responsibilities usually given to older and more experienced men. He told a reporter years later that a four-mule plow team was the biggest thing he’d driven before he became the pilot of a four-engine B-17. Now in his late eighties, he said, “We were all just kids flying those things.”

In the Bible, we find accounts of many people who followed God courageously when they were young. In a situation of corrupt spiritual leadership, “Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child” (1 Sam. 2:18). David faced the giant Goliath in spite of being told, “You are not able to go against this Philistine . . . for you are a youth” (17:33). Mary, the mother of Jesus, was most likely very young when she was told she would bear the Son of God. She responded to the angel’s announcement by saying, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Paul told the young pastor Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12).

God values each one in His family. In His strength, the young can be bold in their faith, while those who are older can encourage those who are “just kids.”

O Lord of all the upward road, Keep strong our youth, we pray; May age and youth together seek To follow in Thy way. —Niedermeyer
Encouraging the young should never become old.

Knowing God, Knowing Hope – Part 3 by Mark D. Roberts

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Hope is in short supply these days. In this morning’s newspaper, I read about growing tensions in the Middle East and the possibility of war on several fronts. The European economic future looks bleaker by the day. And, on the home front in the United States, we face the looming “Fiscal Cliff” with its dire financial implications. There was a time when we put hope in our leaders to solve the crises of our world. But, increasingly, we have lost confidence in them and their ability to fix our broken world.

Hopelessness also invades our personal lives. Many of us have lost our jobs in the economic slowdown of the last few years. Our families have not turned out in the way we had wanted them to. In many cases, even our churches and religious leaders have let us down. We often feel defeated and desperate. Like I said, hope is in short supply these days.

Yet, in the midst of the doldrums, Christians are to be people of persistent hope. The season of Advent is, in fact, a time of concentrated hope as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child. As I explained in yesterday’s reflection, our hope is not wishful thinking. It is not denying the pain in our world or pretending that our lives are without struggles. In fact, Christian hope is not based on the condition of the world or on some magic calculus that promises our lives will be better. Rather, our hope rests on God, on his character, his faithfulness, and his promises. Our hope remains solid even when life disappoints us because it is founded on the one who is utterly reliable.

As Christians, our hope is focused on the content of God’s calling to us, on the salvation that is to come, when all things will be put right through Christ. Though we begin to experience some of what is to come in this life, we recognize that our world is still broken, that things will not work out in the short run as we would like. Our hope in Christ does not mean that, during our lifetime, every problem will be solved, every disease healed, every victim of oppression set free, every hungry child fed. Yet, we have confidence that God will one day complete his work of mending the world. This confidence is our hope, a hope that keeps us going, a hope we offer to a hopeless world.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What things in your life make it hard for you to have hope? What inspires your hope in God and God’s future?

PRAYER: Faithful God, it is so easy these days to give up hope, to slip into cynicism, to let negativity reign in our hearts. The people and institutions in whom we have trusted have so often let us down. And the problems we face in our world seem absolutely overwhelming. Hopeless reaches out to grasp my heart and claim it as its own.

But you offer hope that is greater than this world. Because of who you are and what you have done, because you have called us to yourself and your salvation, we can have hope. We can confidently expect that you will one day put all things in order through Christ. In that day, you will turn our weapons into farm tools, our mourning into dancing. As we focus upon you and your future, we have hope. And this hope empowers us to live for you in the world.

May we be people of genuine, God-focused hope. And may we share this hope with our neighbors, who so desperately need it. Amen.