We are living in a world that places a high value on tolerance. But what is it? Is it Biblical? And how can we hold fast to faith in the midst of increasing pressure to compromise conviction?
What Tolerance ISN’T –
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, being intolerant goes beyond a simple lack of respect. It’s “being unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters” or frankly “bigoted”. This means that in our country, drawing moral lines in the sand earns you the title of “bigot” more often than not. I get it – differences can be scary. Wars break out over differences. We NEED tolerance. But the sort of tolerance our culture is striving for is a false tolerance. It’s based on blurring the lines of our differences in order to make tolerance (and ultimately peace) achievable. Families are really all the same. Religions are really all the same. All truth is truth.
But just as true courage does not exist without danger, tolerance does not exist without differences. TRUE tolerance then, ISN’T to deny our differences, but rather to accept them as reality. 1 Corinthians 13:7 teaches us that “love endures all things”. The Gospel grants us freedom to acknowledge and endure the differences among us, because Jesus teaches us to love THROUGH them, not skirt around them. We can hold Godly convictions and STILL love others who see things differently. The more they see that disagreement and love can co-exist, the more it will help them dispel the culture’s view of tolerance.
What Tolerance IS -
So what IS tolerance? Interestingly, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the definition of tolerance is listed as “a capacity to endure pain or hardship”. (That sure sounds a lot like 1 Corinthians 13:7!) But this is not what most of us think of when we think of the word tolerance. Often, those who most demand tolerance do so because they are unwilling to endure the pain of intolerance. How ironic!!! But if true tolerance is to endure hardship, then Christians are called to this definition of tolerance. Because we are called to love…and love endures all things.
In a country that is growing increasingly intolerant of Christian values and beliefs, we must endure. This is where most of us fall short. I know I do!!! Unfortunately many of us rather bow to the god of tolerance in order to avoid being persecuted. If we’re honest, our motivation is self-protection, not love for others. But it’s not enough to tolerate others’ differences; we must also be willing to endure the hatred (hardship) that comes our way when they can’t tolerate ours. THIS is true tolerance!
So How Do We Practice It?
Everything hinges on this one: Loved and accepted people love and accept people. It’s that simple.
I’m afraid this is something we can’t fake our way through. Tolerance requires genuine Love. And we must first experience being loved and accepted by Jesus in order to know what love is. Jesus is the supreme example of what it means to love. He did far more than just tolerate us. He truly endured – he endured misunderstanding, ridicule, persecution. And he endured it all the way to the cross!!!
And he did it for you and me.
The more we fill our hearts with the truth of His love, the less room there will be for anything else. Loving those who are different from us isn’t always easy, but we have the best example to follow. If we can love others the way Jesus loves us, we can rest assured we are practicing tolerance at its absolute best.
Nicole is a wife and stay-at-home mom to three energetic children in Lake Villa, IL. In addition to writing, she enjoys serving as the Care Team Leader for her church's MOPS group and is also a part of the Sunday worship team. Other interests include performing Improv, venturing outdoors...and pretending to be a chef, thanks to the Food Network. Nicole has a heart for "getting real" with other women and helping them discover Jesus through honesty, empathy, and the power of "me too". Connect with her at MotherhoodConfessions.com
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