The apostle Paul counseled us to "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). The Bible further tells us "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3)
There are some Christian faiths today who view the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being of the devil, and there are several reasons why they feel this way. The first and most important is that they believe salvation comes only through the grace of God and not because of any works we do (Romans 11:6, 2 Timothy 1:9). Since the LDS church teaches that our salvation is also based on keeping the commandments, they feel that this doctrine directly contradicts God's word as found in the Bible. Furthermore, they feel that if our salvation is dependant on what we do, that detracts from the importance of Christ's atonement. As such, instead of giving all the glory to God as the Bible teaches (Romans 11:27; 1 Cor.10:31), they claim we seek to glorify ourselves. Thus, it is their contention that we are preaching a different doctrine than what Christ taught and should therefore be accursed (Galatians 1:8).
In addition to this, since the Bible declares there is only one God (Mark12:32) yet the LDS church teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individuals, they contend we believe there is more than one God. As such, they accuse us of proclaiming a different kind of Christ than what the Bible declares. Since these doctrines stand in direct contrast to what many Christians believe, such critics argue that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deceiving people concerning the true nature of the Godhead. Since it was Jesus who said, "He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew12:30) they feel that anyone who teaches something different than what Christ taught is an anti-Christ. And, of course, the leader of the anti-Christ is Satan himself. Thus they conclude that the LDS church is inspired of the devil.
Based on this reasoning, there are some Christian faiths who teach that it is their moral duty not just to defend their own viewpoint but to actively "Fight the good fight of faith" and "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." To them, this means we are at war against the forces of evil and must go on the offensive to deliberately seek out and destroy the enemies of Christ.
To accomplish this goal, they use a number of methods including the distribution of anti-Mormon films, pamphlets, books, and other literature. But there are some who feel it isn't enough merely to hand out this kind of material. Quite often they will engage in public protests against the LDS Church whenever they feel it will attract large crowds, so they can visibly and vocally declare to others the evils of Mormonism (see pictures ). They will seek out LDS members on the web and engage them in debates through email correspondence in an effort to convert them from their false ideas. They will hold meetings with their own members to show them how to thwart the efforts of LDS missionaries and, in some cases, they will even seek out and find those whom the missionaries are teaching so they can "educate" them in an effort to save their souls from being lured into the snares of the devil.
However, "Mormons" are not the only one's who are targeted for such treated. These crusaders for Christ employ the same techniques on the Jehovah Witnesses, those of the Muslim faith, Near Eastern religions, the New Age movement, sometimes even the Catholic religion and any other church that teaches a doctrine different than what they believe the Bible proclaims.
Even though there are Christian faiths who consider such tactics as exhibiting religious intolerance, that's not how these zealots view their behavior. They argue that if drug dealers were operating in our neighborhood, we wouldn't sit idly by and tolerate their activities. If there were gang shootings in our neighborhood we wouldn't calmly stay in our homes and do nothing about it. If a pornography store opened across the street from a church, Christians wouldn't try to practice peaceful co-existence in the name of tolerance. In each of these incidents they feel it would be the duty of Christians to do all in their power to root out such evil. To do otherwise would only encourage wickedness to spread.
There are those who likewise believe that teaching false doctrine is every much an evil as drug dealing, street violence and pornography and must be vigorously fought against and defeated. To them, this does not constitute religious intolerance but instead is part of their responsibility for furthering God's work upon the earth by thwarting the works of the devil.
Although this argument may sound noble and reasonable to some, such a view is not consistent with what the Bible teaches.
Jesus taught, "Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7:1,2). The apostle Paul asked "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10).
Even though the Bible teaches us not to judge others, it is impossible to go through life without making judgments every day about people on a wide variety of issues. To make no judgments about anything would permit every kind of activity to be acceptable. Since the Bible clearly speaks out against certain kinds of behavior, how do we determine what is the proper way to judge others?
Nearly all people base their judgments on a conviction that what they believe is right and correct. This then leads to the inevitable conclusion that any opposing viewpoint must of necessity be wrong. And indeed, without a firm belief in the correctness of something, it would be nearly impossible to make any critical judgments. The problem then isn't so much in the judging itself but in the manner in which we carry out the judgment.
To illustrate this principle, we can look at the subject of abortion. Nearly all Christian faiths believe that abortion is against the laws of God. As such, they have judged that such behavior is morally wrong. But, once having made that decision, the question then becomes, how do they apply this judgment? Some churches merely speak out about its evils from the pulpit. Others circulate literature that presents the reasons why they feel abortion is wrong. Still others may take a more active role within the framework of their community, setting up alternative counseling or adoption homes for those who choose not to abort yet don't wish to keep their new born child.
But there are others who feel that such actions do not go far enough. Therefore, they gather in front of abortion clinics to visibly and vocally protest their opposition to this practice. Then there are still others who go a step further and use their presence to physically block the entrances to these medical facilities in an effort to prevent people from entering. Some of these protestors may merely pass out literature to those seeking an abortion, while others attempt to harass and intimidate both employees and patients.
But there is yet another group who feels that such measures don't go far enough. In their zeal to insure that abortions are not able to be conducted, they may resort to bombing the clinic, or perhaps even killing the doctor who has the skill to perform the abortion.
In each of these cases, the judgment on the issue of abortion is the same. They all agree that it is wrong. They all agree that it is something that is repugnant and unacceptable. But, as we have seen, the way each group carries out the fulfilling of their judgment is different. So the real question becomes, how are Christians suppose to react when they feel that the behavior of others is wrong or unacceptable?
A lawyer once asked Jesus, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40).
The foundation upon which the Christian faith is built is love of God and love of our neighbor. Jesus emphasized this point when he said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). The apostle Paul explained: "Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and [have] all knowledge and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing... Now abideth faith, hope, [and] charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor. 13:2,13). In all newer translations, the word "love" is used instead of "charity." In fact, Paul went so far as to say that it is love that fulfills the Law (Gal. 5:14).
Of all the qualities that a Christian should possess, love for others is the most important. It is the hallmark of a Christian life. On the other side of the coin, the opposite of love is hate. And in order to be intolerant, a person must have a hatred or, at the least, a strong dislike for that which they cannot tolerate. Since sin is something that we should not tolerate, the reason why some Christians are intolerant of the LDS religion is because they consider it to be "evil." Since the scriptures specifically tells us "Ye that love the LORD, hate evil" (Psalms 97:10) and that "the fear of the LORD is to hate evil" (Proverbs 8:13), there can be no argument that Christians should hate evil.
If that is true, then how do we reconcile hating evil with the scriptures that tell us to love our neighbor? Are we to love only those who are good and hate those who are not? Yet, the scriptures tell us that "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3;12) because "there is none good but one, that is God" (Matthew 19:17). Using this as our standard for judging others, it would be easy to conclude that everyone is evil and should therefore be hated. But obviously, such a conclusion can't be correct if a true disciple of Christ is known by his love of others.
If we are to love our neighbor yet hate evil, then "our neighbor" and "evil" must be two distinctly different things. Indeed, there is a common saying that states, "Hate the sin but love the sinner." We can be intolerant of what a person does without being intolerant of the person who performs the objectionable act.
Although this is understood, even by those who denounce the teachings of the LDS Church, yet it is not always easy to separate the sin from sinner. Too often what usually happens is that the sinner becomes just as hated as the sin which they are accused of committing. And for those who are intolerant of what the LDS Church teaches, quite frequently this is precisely what happens.
The reason for this is because these people literally "contend for the faith." To contend means: To struggle, as in battle; to fight; to debate. Thus, when people contend for the faith, they feel they are engaged in a battle. They are ready to fight for what they believe, which fight usually is conducted in a debating type of forum. As such, their main tactic is to engage in arguments, which, if not controlled, can become rather emotionally heated. But is this what Jude meant when he said we should "contend for the faith?"
The apostle Paul defined the works of the flesh as "...hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, [and] strife..." (Galatians 5:19). The New International Version translates this as "hatred, discord, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, [and] factions (i.e., arguments that split people into factions pitted against one another)." By way of comparison, Paul similarly defined the fruits of the Spirit as being "love peace, longsuffering, gentleness... meekness [and] temperance" (vs 22,23).
The way of the world is to fight and argue in an angry, contentious manner. On the other hand, a Christian who is filled with the Spirit of Christ will react in a calm gentle manner, tempering their words and actions with patience and peaceable gentleness. The Bible tells us that "a soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stirreth up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). However, rather than speaking with a soft voice, what usually happens when people contend for the faith is that their words tend to stir up anger. They have no intention of disagreeing with people in an agreeable manner. Instead, their stated goal is to "fight the good fight" as soldiers of the cross, not for the purpose of getting along with the "enemy" but to overcome him, relying upon their leader in battle to help them gain the victory until finally the conflict is over.
Although these warriors for Christ enter into debates with the noble purpose of convincing people of the error of their ways, it doesn't take long before battle lines are drawn with each side vigorously defending their position. What may start out to be a calm, reasoned discussion can quickly deteriorate into sharp words and stinging criticism being hurled at one another. The scriptures clearly tell us that this kind of behavior is a sin in itself. What we see then is that people actively engage in one sin as a means to combat another sin. As a result, they are just as guilty of doing wrong as the people they are accusing of wrongdoing.
Many times intolerance is accompanied with hypocrisy, which is when people judge others by a different standard than they judge themselves. Jesus cautioned us, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew. 7:12). However, in many cases, intolerant people treat others far worse than they would like others to treat them. No one likes to be made fun of, yelled at, belittled or condemned. Yet, even though activists would be angered with being treated this way, they nonetheless see nothing wrong in treating others in this manner.
Then how should we "contend for the faith?"
When judgment needs to be carried out, the scriptures give us the formula on how to do it. Paul wrote, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, [should] restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). None of us are perfect. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. As such, none of us have the moral authority to cast stones of guilt and condemnation at others. We may not like what someone else says or does but that doesn't relieve us as Christians of continuing to behave in a Christ-like manner. True, sincere, genuine love should be the guiding influence in how we treat others with whom we disagree.
Jesus commanded us to "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which art in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). The works of God's Spirit are not demonstrated through the use of hatred, anger, contention, bickering, squabbling, and feuding. Instead of these kinds of works showing forth the glory of God, they only end up glorifying the devil.
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