The Gospel of Tolerance?
There is no way I can say all there is to say about it. There is no way I can say all that needs to be said about it. It is a can of worms, Pandora’s Box. You can’t undo it. It is the gospel of 666 that passes for 777. It FEELS good, sounds good, almost is good, and thus it gets a lot of people on it’s bandwagon, but it misses the mark all the same.
Can’t we all just get along?
I remember when Rodney King tearfully cried that message on the television. Wow! If ever there was a black man who deserved a hearing… surely it was… well, you fill in the blank. Rodney King suffered intense injustice like soooooooo many others before and after. Many who suffered quite a lot worse fates than him, but his tormenters were caught on video. And when justice failed him, the streets of LA went up in smoke for days on end. The chaos got so bad that it seemed ANY kind of peace was better than the HELL unleashed. And so King cried out for TOLERANCE since justice was just too far out of reach.
Well, of course that is a dramatic example. But I have another, a little closer to home. We have this wonderful TV reporter here in Lubbock on the KLBK channel who does a superb job of reporting the news. She is, as I hear it through the grapevine, an incredibly kind and charitable person who lives up to high standards of excellence. She is no Rodney King, who suffered injustice alright, but who was not exactly the pure and innocent victim either. No. Terri Furman, to my knowledge has suffered no injustice, but she is, it seems, almost angelic in innocence and purity.
Yet she too preaches the Gospel of Tolerance.
Furman hosts a regular segment on KLBK called “Intentional Living” in which she finds experts around town to weigh in on various social topics in what looks and feels like a benign attempt to help us all “just get along.” However, just the teaser for this segment, which airs almost daily, looks, sounds, and feels like the next big sermon series from Pastor Bates down at First Church: “Do you feel like you are missing out on what life has instore for you?” she asks as part of her promo/teaser.
“Life with a new perspective”
“Living your best life everyday”
“Intentional Living with KLBK’s Terri Furman”
Here. See for yourself:
And listen to this segment in which Furman introduces us to an “expert” from Texas Tech University, Amanda Wheler, who will coach us on how to make nice at the Thanxgiving dinner table.
Here’s the thing, Furman and her expert know all too well that these days people argue when they get together, and this happens at family gatherings a lot. The arguments have a way of destroying the ambiance. Our politics pit brother against brother! If we talk too loosely, we will wind up proving how we hate our brother, our father, our mother as part of our political agendas! This is (not in her words) a demon that destroys so much otherwise good family fun. And Furman wants to go up against this demon with the Gospel of TOLERANCE.
She preaches, in as benign a way as she possibly can, the Gospel of Tolerance.
And it sounds good! It sounds right! If Uncle Ned and Dad can just refrain from talking about the impeachment hearings long enough for the tryptophan to kick in, then we can have a nice Thanxgiving dinner, and the world can rock along as it’s supposed to… as it is intended to… by… by… by who? She doesn’t say. But she is sure that “it’s nice to be nice to the nice,” to borrow a phrase from Frank Burns.
The Gospel of Tolerance is not the answer though. As nice, as good, and right as it sounds, looks, and feels (and Pastor Bates has been making a mint off this kind of preaching for years now), it is not the Gospel of Jesus – the Kingdom of God.
Tolerating Jesus at your Table
Open your Bible to Luke 14. Step away and read that chapter and then come back to this blog post.
No really… I’m waiting…
Okay, did you read Luke 14? Really???
Then you saw Jesus show up for a fine meal as a guest of a ruler of the Pharisees (v. 1). Got the scene there?
It’s almost like Jesus shows up at Thanxgiving dinner. This is a fine dining experience. People are watching. He has a chance to ‘make nice’ here, but he also has a chance to heal on the Sabbath. This will be upsetting for the Pharisees, but Jesus seems to be game for it.
It’s not exactly talk about the impeachment hearings, but it is ever bit as controversial – maybe more! As they say down at Joe’s Tavern, no talk about religion or politics allowed in this drinking establishment. (Funny isn’t it? How intolerant the Gospel of Tolerance is for intolerance? Yeah, those of us who hate political correctness (this used to be just being polite when I was a kid) like to point this irony out as if it is a news flash! … seriously, we will tolerate abortion, genderbending and homosexuality, and all manner of leftist, liberal issues, but in the very name of tolerance we won’t tolerate criticizing any of them!) Just get back to eating and drinking!
But Jesus ain’t having it.
He puts the screws to these Pharisees with his tough questions. But he is just getting warmed up here. He then tells a story about dinner guests taking important seats at the banquet (vv. 7-11).
Are you catching this???
Jesus is at a fine banquet and already upsetting the host and his friends when he tells a story about how people take their seats, and the story shames people who presume they are important and take important seats. And he is telling this story to a bunch of self-important Pharisees AT A PARTY WHERE THEY JUST SAT DOWN TO EAT!
You catching this now???
Jesus is pushing their buttons. And so far, these folx are TOLERATING him! But this tolerance is covering some hard feelings under the surface.
(Let me just say that when it comes to Jesus, he isn’t into all that benign can’t-we-all-just-get-along stuff. No. He wants you to LOVE him, but he is going to show you where your own contempt is getting in the way of that. And he ain’t nice about it. He is digging around under your skin, irritating and hurting. He won’t stop until you crucify him or your own flesh!)
So, just about the time Jesus has all the guests at this banquet all very uncomfortable about the seating arrangements they themselves sorted out according to their own pride, he next turns his attention to the host! (vv. 12-14). Wanna please God with your parties or just schmoose your way up social ladders?
Jesus has now picked on guests and host alike at this party. Practically everyone there is feeling the heat! Just imagine sitting there chewing your food with this cousin at your Thanxgiving table going off LIKE THIS and you are still trying to save face, trying to keep the happy vibe that Terri Furman and friends are preaching so you can have your “intentional living.” The food is getting hard to swallow!
And so in verse 15 someone there at the table tries to smooth things over with his benign statement: “Blessed is everyone who gets to eat bread in the Kingdom of God.”
It reminds me of the deacon from church who, when I confronted him and his Seeking Shalom class about how they are excluding the poor from our fellowship rather than serving Jesus, he tried real hard half a dozen times to say, “But [Agent X] we are really saying the same thing here. I think we agree on far more than we disagree about. Calm down and see it for what it really is….”
So what does Jesus say to this?
He tells another story at the party about people throwing parties. And IF, and I will stick with IF, however I am inclined to concur, If this parable is in anyway allegorical, then the man hosting the party in THIS parable appears to be God himself who wants everyone to come to his PARTY OF THE APOCALYPSE! This will be, not just “an” but “THE” epic party of all parties. I mean as long as this idiot wants to bring up eating bread in the Kingdom of God as if it were just some benign way of smoothing out a bit of tolerance here, then Jesus is going to reveal what is really at stake and how idiots like this one are shortchanging themselves.
The man plans out a huge banquet and sends invitations to EVERYBODY. But it turns out, so many of those invited are trying to live intentionally “their best lives now” and are too busy to really break free and come to God’s Party! So the man (God), appearing to be a bit upset by this, sends the servant back out to find the poor, the crippled, the lame and blind – all the riffraff of society who aren’t in fact living their best lives now and who aren’t in fact living all that intentionally because in THEM he finds people who will actually show up!
And with that story, Jesus has now effectively, with some subtlety, told this idiot that he isn’t eating bread in the Kingdom of God, and he isn’t blessed either.
Granted, the scene shifts in verse 25. We are no longer sitting at that party with that group of people at that Pharisee’s banquet anymore, BUT if you will examine closely how much this chapter and the next in Luke’s narrative have to do with parties, you will notice that this scene about counting the cost of discipleship is placed here nonetheless to bounce sparks off those party scenes. And for our analogy here, we will play a bit fast and loose with it by implanting those statements in our Thanxgiving dinner gathering with our family. Remember the one Furman highlights as part of her Gospel of Tolerance?
Yeah, that one.
The fact is: If Dad and Uncle Ned are in such a state of hate disguised as tolerance anyway, then they are only one or two steps removed from that phemon we find in the American Civil War – “brother against brother.” We are, in fact, NOT just getting along in this world. This is the world God created, and he created it to be ordered differently than the tolerance we so dearly champion which is really a devil’s lie. It is 666 masquerading too easily as 777. And if you want to get with your “true north” so to speak, then you must get with Jesus who upsets these little banquets we throw to honor ourselves and not God.
I encourage you to call the bluff on the Gospel of Tolerance, and maybe take these considerations to your next “communion meditative thought.”