Most of the religious crisis that we witness these days is on the basis of the limitation, and in fact the total inexistence, of religious toleration between various religions.
What is religious toleration? Religious toleration is the deliberate allowance or permission of other religions that have beliefs different from one’s. The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance; therefore this is what religious tolerance doesn’t mean: belief that other religions are as correct as yours. (Source: Wikipedia)
As Christians, we have only one true God, and then one Savior and mediator; both of them, I believe, have natures of religious toleration. Jesus even thought it. This fact, I’ll try to establish in the rest of this article but before then I would like to sound it in a layman’s term that religious toleration doesn’t mean you have believed that all the other religions are as correct/right as yours. You can tolerate other religions while you hold to your true belief.
God’s Freewill and Toleration
We Christians have grown to understand that our God is a merciful, compassionate God of love. And one of the things he had done for us, out of his love for us, is give us the opportunity of freewill—to not impose his love into us and to not force belief in him on us.
God is not interested in us being a doll that goes just in any direction his owner wishes it to go without its conscience; and this is the basis of his free will to all man. This is the basis of his toleration for people who do not believe in Him or in His plans and intents and words and truth—this is the reason why I believe in God’s toleration of other religions, other beliefs, every lies that people might cook up about Him.
But it is important to remind ourselves again that God’s toleration of people’s unbelief in Him doesn’t mean He accepts all belief into His kingdom at the end.
Noah’s ark is the best case study for this. Noah believed that the flood was going to “purify” the face of the earth of all the wickedness at that time, he believed in God. But there are also other people who did not believe in this; they say it is neither scientifically nor morally possible. They say they are wiser than Noah; he is just a disillusioned man. In short, they said a lot of critical things about him and his belief. Yet God does tolerate them, He positioned their realization of the truth, not to the judgment of man, but to the D-day of eternal justification and condemnation.
Noah, who believed the truth, shared his belief with the people, they refused, he tolerated their beliefs, and God tolerated it also. But at the end when Noah was justified and was granted a new life, the unbelievers—those with a different belief—were deprived of life altogether: Both their old life and their new life was demanded of them.
On the mount, where Jesus Christ started preaching to his disciples, he first preached a one-action-with-its-reward sermon which we all know as The Beatitude (Matthew 5:3) which was to help them get a brief knowledge of what it takes to become acceptable children of God and partakers in the kingdom.
He continued by correcting a thought that probably might have generated within them. “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;” he started “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
This is a check that would help prepare their mind for the many things that he would later do and teach; teachings that might seem too hard for them to understand or keep up with.
One of these teachings is that which I will like to call The Teaching of ‘Heart-ward Sins’ which was recorded in verses 21-30 and was divided into two parts. These two parts are ‘Heart-ward Murder’ and ‘Heart-ward Adultery.’
The summary and purpose of Christ’s teaching of The Heart-ward Sins is this: All sins starts from the heart, and that is the basis for the actual sin; therefore allowing it to start in your heart at all is sin itself, even it, is the real sin.
He told them: concerning murder, “You heard that it was said that anyone who murders will be subject to judgment…, but I tell you that [not even until you murder] anyone who is angry with a brethren will be subject to judgment” (vs. 22) and concerning adultery, “You heard that it was said that you shall not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who [even if he had not committed adultery per se] looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (vs. 28)
These are the sin from the heart and, if we examine truthfully, most of us are guilty of them. One way or another, everyday, we murder our brethrens in the eyes of Jesus Christ and we commit adultery with opposite sex in his eyes.
Are we then, by this, rendering ourselves grateful of his selfless death for us on the cross? Aren’t we nailing him the second time (Hebrew 6:6b), calling him a lie (1 John 5:10) and grieving the Spirit of God everyday (Ephesians 4:30-31) by ignoring one of the first teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ?
One of his first teachings; that means one of his most important teachings that he thought and one of the most important lessons he wants us to live by in everyday of our life!
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:27-28)
The mistake a lot of us make about the sovereignty of God is so deadly to our stand before Him. We do things with a dangerously wrong motive—we tend to circumstances and try to handle situations as if we are all alone, independent, out of God’s sight and control.
God is sovereign. He cannot be compared to anyone. (Isaiah 40:25) He created all the heavens and all that they entail; He created the earth and all that it entails. (vs. 26) Apart from creation, He sustains all; He knows every creature by name.
He is the wisest and knows the right things to do at the best of times; His plans are unique and great. Remember, a part of His plan is to permit Satan to test Job with infirmities (Job 1) asa well as to make Solomon the next king of Israel, even if Adonijah was trying to hijack the throne (1 Kings 1).
Now, often, some people think to themselves saying, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God” (Isaiah 40:27). This kind of thought can come from the heart of two different kinds of person for two different reasons:
- THE WICKED: A wicked person who derives pleasure in doing bad and evil things to people around him; Oppressing the poor (Proverbs 14:31) or committing random sins without soberness is the first kind of person that might start thinking this way. He’ll start thinking that all his evil deeds are hidden from the sight of God, forgetting the words of God through the wise king Solomon: “…the wicked will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 11:21)
- THE VICTIM: If a person is a victim of wickedness and unwell-happenings, He may start thinking this way: that God’s eyes is no longer looking at him as assured in Psalm 1:6, that his ways and his troubles and his pains and his failures and his hardship are hidden from God’s sight, forgetting the words of God through the prophet Isaiah: “The arm of the Lord is not too short to save; nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)
But the fact is this: none of these cases should make us think that God’s face is far from us or that our ways are hidden from Him. For the Bible confirms it; God’s face is watching us always either in our wicked deeds or in our unfair calamities.
Whether we are in bad situations or whether we are the cause of people’s unpalatable situations, God sees us and His unbeatable wisdom remains in Him, with which He is always making the right judgment and reward for each of us as we deserve.
TO THE AFFLICTED
He loves us still, even in our situations: His plans for us are good, for our betterment and for his glory (Jeremiah 29:11). He makes all things beautiful in His time, so we don’t have to worry or fret but always joyous and grateful. If this sound too hard to do, seek God’s grace, with Him all things are possible. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Matthew 19:26)
Do not think that God’s eyes are far from you, never, they are not. God is currently doing new things to better your situation and very soon these new things will spring forth for the whole world to see (Isaiah 43:19). Remember, we do not please God by our perfect good works but He pleases Himself with our unfaltering faith in Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
All our situations are for the glory of God, and he never for once forgets us. Take the case of the man born blind, recorded in John 9:1-12, as a case study; Jesus confirmed that the man’s state is apparent so that “the works of God might be displayed in him.” (vs. 3) Although, before then, the man might have been thinking that God had forsaken him or God’s eyes no longer see his trouble.
Let us cultivate a habit of faith, no, let us pray that God would not cease to bless us with His gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 2:13).
TO THE WICKED
God loves us so much but He hates the wicked works we do, He hates the bad thought we have concerning our neighbours. All these I-don’t-care attitudes of ours sadden Him; like the things our children do against our commands sadden us, as parents; and like the things our best friends do to hurt us sadden us, as human generally (Proverbs 6:16-19).
The Almighty God wants us to live in peace and harmony with each other: To love our neigbours (Leviticus 19:18) and to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Now if after all these, anyone thinks his doings are hidden from God’s sight, let him remember this today: The Lord we serve [whether you believe him with us or not] is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow weary or tired—His eyes will not grow weary or tired to see your wicked deeds, His ears will not grow weary or tired to hear your wicked thoughts—and his understanding no one can ever fathom (See Isaiah 40:28). He is sovereign.
A poet can, with his,
Poetry do what a
Painter can with his
It all begins with a
Wander of mind.
A poet, with his mind,
The forest he paints;
A painter, with blind
Eyes, the ocean he sings.
Tiz all to savor the
Wonders of creation,
The glory in the
Works of the Creator.
This short poem was motivated by Ogundare Tope’s Scent of Water, and was first published as a comment on his blog. I’ve decide to edit and share it here, by permission.
There was a once tree, and
It lived according to the law
Of Impermanence of Seasons;
Which states that as one
Season comes, another goes.
This poem is dedicated to my good friend, Omoya Yinka S. on the occasion of his birthday. I hope it’s worthwhile.
While most celebrate
Birthday with beating,
The creator expects
Us to do do so in meeting.