The Intolerant Christ by Dr. Robert Jeffress
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The Intolerant Christ
by Dr. Robert Jeffress

When you hear the name Jesus, what is the first word that comes to your mind? Gentle, loving, patient, and compassionate are usually the top choices. One descriptor that is usually not at the top of anyone's list is intolerant. To employ such a word to describe the Lamb of God borders on blasphemy, most people would think.

My college religion professor was teaching one day about the Israelites' victory at Jericho, during which "they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both men and women, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword" (Joshua 6:21) according to God's prior instruction in Deuteronomy 20:16. God saw the Canaanites' idolatrous worship of many gods as a spiritual cancer that had to be eradicated from the land for the sake of the Israelites' spiritual health.

My college professor did not see it that way. "Do you really think God told Joshua to kill every man, woman, child, and animal living in Jericho? Of course not! Joshua simply imagined God said that because of his wrong image of God as a bloodthirsty warrior. Can you imagine Jesus of Nazareth ever doing such a thing?"

I raised my hand and replied, "I can!" The incredulous professor (who grew to really dislike me by the end of the semester) asked, "How can you say that?" I then referenced the verse about Christ's return to earth when He will slay the wicked (Revelation 19:15). The professor quickly dismissed that reference as "apocalyptic literature" that is not "inspired" as the Gospel accounts of the meek and mild Teacher from Galilee. When I hear people trying to decide which portions of the Bible are truly inspired, I often think of what Dr. W. A. Criswell used to call "the leopard theory" of biblical inspiration: "The Bible is inspired in spots, and I'm inspired to spot the spots!"

But even the Gospel accounts of Jesus do not present Him as a one-dimensional, wimpy rabbi who roamed the countryside picking daisies, eating birdseed, and saying nice things to people. Author Dorothy Sayers contrasts this popular view of Jesus with the Jesus actually presented in the Gospels:

The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore -- on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him "meek and mild" and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies....
We cannot blink at the fact that Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of the church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference. 1

Someone has said, "When answering the question, 'What would Jesus do?' remember that turning over tables and chasing out the money changers with a whip is always within the range of options!" We need to be certain that our ideas about Jesus are based on reality as revealed in the Bible rather than on Sunday-school stereotypes.

When it comes to the central issue of salvation, we must allow our beliefs to be shaped by what the founder of our faith, Jesus Christ, actually said, not by what we wish He had said. If you carefully and honestly search the Gospel accounts of Jesus' words (which are the only reliable repository we have for His teachings), you will find that the real Jesus, versus the imaginary Jesus, drives a stake through universalism, pluralism, and inclusivism. As evidenced by His own words, Jesus clearly believes that a person can only be assured of going to heaven through exercising personal faith in Him.

  1. Dorothy Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 4, 55. 

Watch Dr. Jeffress this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Not All Roads Lead To Heaven by Dr. Robert Jeffress. Copyright ©2016 by Robert Jeffress. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.

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