How to Live the Bible — Conviction With Tolerance
This is the one-hundred-fifteenth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
The power of belief
Real convictions aren’t just a lot of noise—they accomplish something. It was an imprisoned Paul, persecuted by the Roman and Jewish authorities, criticized and sometimes undermined by other Christians, who said in Romans 1:16 that he remained unashamed of the convictions he was living for and willing to die for.
Conviction is not simply the brusqueness of some stout-hearted personalities. It is not a characteristic of temperament. Some people with the strongest of convictions are actually quite unassuming, unpretentious, even meek. Like oak trees strong and stable, their roots go deep having found the sources of life way beneath the surface of things. Anybody can have convictions, because anybody can be gripped by conviction itself.
Belief has power in that it gives life. We are saved through belief in the truth (2 Thes. 2:13), a salvation that includes more than a promise of Paradise. Belief in the truth does accomplish that, but it also saves us in the everyday deliverance we can experience from our ignorance, our limitations, and our failings. An ever clearer picture of reality—which is what belief is—makes a more profound practical difference in a person’s life than anything else.
Conviction leads to life-giving sacrifice. Why would we, why should we give up our time, our money, our convenience or comfort? Why sacrifice security or even your life? The only explanation for that whole range of sacrifices from simple giving to martyrdom is conviction. Belief in the living God means being owned by another, borne along by a network of principles that preceded your birth and will continue in force as inherent laws of the universe after you die. It is to be a part of something so much larger than yourself. Does life make sense any other way?
The security of belief
Conviction is not only demanding, but generous as well. If it entails obedience and sacrifice, it also provides the spiritual protection we need to live in a spiritually dangerous world. Why is it that “the armor of God” from Ephesians 6 is so memorable? Could it be that we are aware that we are profoundly insecure in our inner lives unless we find some defensive and offensive capabilities? Most of the pieces of this armor are derivatives of conviction or conviction itself: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword which is the word of God.
Courage arises from conviction. Fear of the world is not the appropriate stance of the Christian. Some of the Christians most susceptible to fear are Christian parents. Knowing the vulnerability of these unformed lives, there is a temptation to isolate them from the world rather than instill in them the personal belief system that will be their armor. Yet if you study the convictions of children you can find yourself amazed, and will realize we should never underestimate how powerful can be the beliefs held in the smaller hearts of the Christian community.
The role of tolerance
The Bible insists that though Christians are to be people of conviction, they are also to be models of tolerance. Conviction is brittle and harsh when someone shows little ability or inclination to show tolerance. Conviction without tolerance is a closed system, insensitive to the outside idea or the different kind of person. It cannot grow because of its own self-confinement. Tolerance is humility, sensitivity, openness, teachablility. It is knowing that you do not know everything, and taking the posture of a learner.
Paul summarizes this well. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).
A balanced attitude toward God and toward other people will always combine the stability of conviction and the openness of tolerance. To be a disciple is to know the master whom you follow, and to have an open ear to the things you have not yet learned, even things that will fly in the face of your earlier beliefs or prejudices.[See previous – living with conviction] ___________
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.
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