we signed up our daughter for a toddlers’ tumbling class, which began this morning. afterwards, in celebration of this special day we went to mcdonald’s for breakfast. it was there that we picked up the morning paper and came across this article.

it is troubling the lengths to which some believers will go in order to define and defend the boundaries of their faith. the visigoths (in this case, tolerance and/or homosexuality) are closing it – quick, bar the gates! strike pre-emptively! sound the alarm and circle the wagons! if you are with us, then get on board – and if you’re against us, look out!

there is certainly a place for truth. following Christ always includes the call to holiness.

however, it is wrong to put grace and truth in opposing corners, in some kind of either/or deathmatch. when the word became flesh, he came into his world full of grace and truth. i don’t imagine grace and truth were like a jar of goober grape, as some might imagine – the peanut butter of grace and the grape jelly of truth co-existing in the same jar side-by-side, but easily separated and never co-mingling. some christians would make it seem as if the only way to take a stand for truth is by becoming belligerent or contentious because grace makes you into an anything-goes welcome mat on which others will trample.

there is also a place for outrage in our faith. there are things that should cause us to get mad, to yell and curse, to pull our hair out. children sold into sexual slavery. people dying of entirely curable illnesses. the socioeconomic disparity revealed by katrina. genocide in places like darfur.

it is regrettable that the angry street preacher-types are the ones with the best soundbites. rants about who God hates play well in the media. nuanced discussions characterized by grace, respect and understanding don’t make for good tv. perhaps this is why scripture tells us to let our gentleness be evident to all – broadcasting the character of Christ over our personal politics and preferences.

there might be some faint glow of truth in this argument against tolerance. but the answer is not to become some kind of intolerant jerk. in the workplace and on the campus, there probably needs to be some kind of standard for interpersonal relationships in the community. however, for God’s people, mere tolerance sets the bar too low. we’re not called simply to put up with or endure those who are different from us. there is the impossible call to love our enemies. and, whether we are right or wrong about who we consider actually to be our enemies, we are still called to love them.

this can only be accomplished through Christ in us, and that through much hard work, earnest prayer and self-sacrifice. not flippant, virulent shouts or slogans, nor through the mentality that we alone are the True Defenders of the Faith (as if God were to greet us in eternity with, “boy, i was really in a bind with that whole homosexuality deal. i’m really glad you distilled my word into obnoxious bumper stickers and hateful t-shirts. well done, good and faithful servant!”)…

to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us…

i don’t want to become the kind of believer who is defined by how i criticize other believers. that’s just as bad, maybe worse, than the above. i want to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly with my God and His people.