Tolerance is a word that has been popularised in recent times. It could be the key to living more peaceful and fulfilling lives, if we could just get along and accept our differences. Surely a more tolerant society would end the ‘isms’ that are so prevalent and destructive. Jesus himself told us not to judge - ‘He who is without sin among you …’ (John 8:7) We are told in Romans 14 not to judge others but rather to encourage and ‘bear with the failings of the weak’ (Romans 15:1).
This can cause dilemmas for Christians. We know that God is righteous and cannot tolerate what is wrong. We know Jesus paid the price for the wrong we have done and has set us free to follow Him. Should we accept wrongdoing?
I have seen both ends of the spectrum and both sides of the argument. We face challenging times in society on the issues of sexuality and gender as well as many other things. It is important that we reflect the love of God.
How does this work when we are surrounded by that which doesn’t honour God?
To become tolerant of things that are wrong becomes dangerous. I work in education and see at first-hand what happens when poor behaviour is not challenged. By overlooking it, we give implied permission for the wrongness to continue.
Likewise in our faith, if we accept multi-faithism, we deny Christ. You cannot have it both ways.
In Romans 15.5-6, Paul states ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. So that with one mind and voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Jesus was never caught out, whether it was avoiding the traps of the Jewish leaders or facing the moral dilemmas of the adulterous woman. He always had an answer that came directly from God.
Jesus showed a better way - his way wasn’t tolerance, it was love. God’s love is far greater than a feeble attempt to show tolerance. This will only cause confusion and division. Love shows complete acceptance of the person where they are at, whilst holding firm against that which will harm them.
A challenge for us all, as we navigate the many pitfalls of society, is to relinquish the natural humanness of our hearts, to recognise the fears and anxieties from which we perceive and react and to replace this with the love of God. As we pursue this, we will see the difference this makes in our own lives and the lives of those around us.