Tolerance Versus Acceptance
An oracle against Egypt: Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it. I will provoke Egypt against Egypt; each will fight against his brother and each against his friend, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. Egypt’s spirit will be disturbed within it, and I will frustrate its plans. Then they will seek idols, ghosts, spirits of the dead, and spiritists. I will deliver Egypt into the hands of harsh masters, and a strong king will rule it. [This is] the declaration of the Lord God of Hosts. (As a result in summary the Scriptures reveal) The waters of the sea will dry up, and the river will be parched and dry. The channels will stink; they will dwindle, and Egypt’s canals will be parched. Reed and rush will die: [Egypt’s] weavers will be dejected; all her wage earners will be demoralized. Pharaoh’s wisest advisers give stupid advice! Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you and reveal what the Lord of Hosts has planned against Egypt. The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of confusion. The leaders] have made Egypt stagger in all she does, as a drunkard staggers in his vomit. On that day Egypt will be like women. She will tremble with fear because of the threatening hand of the Lord of Hosts when He raises it against her. The land of Judah will terrify Egypt; whenever Judah is mentioned, Egypt will tremble because of what the Lord of Hosts has planned against it. On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt and a pillar to the Lord near her border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and leader, and he will rescue them. The Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and Egypt will know the Lord on that day. They will offer sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing. Then they will return to the Lord and He will hear their prayers and heal them. Isaiah 19:1-25 (HCSB)
Are you betting on all the gods like the civilizations of long ago? From a metaphorical sense, Ancient Egypt represents modern society today. They worshiped so many gods, no one really knew which ones they believed nor whether they really believed any of them at all, but everyone exhibited tolerance to all the goods and went through the motions anyway.
Ancient Egypt was ruled by everyone but Egyptians during this historical era – Libyans, Cushites, Assyrians, Persians, and eventually Greeks, who provided a dynasty that ended with Cleopatra (and we all remember how that ended). This foreign intervention created plenty of opportunity for syncretistic worship. However, when anyone worships multiple gods to hedge their bet on worshiping the right god(s) by increasing the odds, which true god would accept such filtered and watered-down worship?
Well, the Lord, the one true and living God would certainly extend his hand to draw those who would believe in him during this era. Egypt, now primarily a Muslim country, was for much of its post-Christ era, a key haven for the Christian community; that is until the spread of Islam in 700 AD. Alexandria was one of the key Christian cities during the formative years of the early church. There, Jews of the exile had studied and formulated their sacred scriptures and what we know as the Septuagint was written as a translation of the ancient Hebrew writings into the more common Greek language – a great aid to the early Christian church.
But how does that matter to me, you ask. Consider this: how many of us are caught up in the modern secular philosophy of tolerance to allow their beliefs to become watered-down to allow room to believe and accept other religions and other gods that are sprouting daily in our very syncretistic society today? If not another religion, what about tolerance toward beliefs that claim to be Christian but have strayed from and stretched the truth that Jesus preached in the Gospels?
But, consider this: God may be using your tolerance and curiosity to be of value to your faith. God may actually be seeking to use you for a more significant purpose. Might God be desiring you to connect with those with different religious beliefs? Not to prove them wrong, but to demonstrate and be able to explain to them God’s inclusive message. But God desires that every believer take the time to truly understand and know that know why and what you believe in our era of tolerance. Yes, we should be tolerant of and respond to others, but we should also not allow our own beliefs to falter or become water-down as a result of that tolerance. If history can offer anything worthwhile on this topic, it is this: The Crusades did little good for the spread of Christianity. In fact, it helped the spread of Islam. Coercion never brings about true conversion. Missionaries do far more lasting good than mercenaries with their swords…
Note: In the light off current events, this message is truer than ever. Islamic Extremism is a threat, but as history proves terrorism and tyranny is the response when their beliefs are wrong. This is true of all forms of religious extremism which rallies around the sword rather than the strength of their religious beliefs. As Jesus said, “A house divided cannot stand.” There is certainly division within Christianity, but Islam is at war within itself, and has been for centuries. God will bring together all his people in his proper time. Until then, don’t allow tolerance to be confused with acceptance of other gods or beliefs.