Tolerance is a term frequently used in today’s culture. If one accepts another’s beliefs and choices that they wouldn’t necessarily choose for themselves, then they are considered tolerant, accepting, and loving. Society says that if you don’t accept one’s beliefs and opinions, then you must not be a very caring person. Tolerance is a massive topic to unpack, so I wanted to refer back to our core theme for this month.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-2 NIV
The Bible states the truth about tolerance in today’s culture. Topics such as homosexuality, other religions, and politically-driven agendas are all hot topics right now. However, the truth puts everything into perspective, like always. See, the Bible states right and wrong, but Christians can sometimes go wrong here. We can go around and say that a person is a sinner, that they’re wrong, and that their actions are condemned; but what do we accomplish if we do it without love?
When we go on like this, the Bible says that we are nothing more than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. It doesn’t mean that what we say isn’t true, but we can drive people away from Christianity by acting as if we have it all together ourselves. We’re not perfect. None of us are. And when we pretend that we are, then we become the ones who are sinning.
Let’s take Jesus’ example. When he met someone who was struggling or even someone who didn’t think they were struggling, he came down to their level. This is where we can go wrong, though. Jesus did not accept their sin. He did not even condone it, yet he approached them in kindness and compassion. He drew people to himself in a completely genuine way.
Society says that if we don’t condone a behavior or lifestyle choice, we’re unloving and intolerant by every standard. But that’s not true. If you saw a friend traveling down a road with a washed-out bridge up ahead, would you encourage them to continue on? Or would you warn them of the imminent peril? Would you call them a sinner as if you’d never traveled that road yourself? Let’s not forget that someone warned us in love while we were still on that road to destruction.
If we were to adopt the world’s standard of tolerance and acceptance, it would be like shouting encouragement from the side of the road when you know it leads only to disaster. On the other hand, if you whisper hate and anger into their ear about the ignorance and sin they’ve shown by taking that road, how are you any better? People acting high and mighty with their faith are in the wrong, for that in no way resembles Christ’s love. Coming alongside someone in love and showing them that the way they’ve chosen is fraught with peril, is the best way to guide them towards the right path.
There is such a fine line between the two extremes. “You are either for someone, or you are against them,” says the world today. But I want to argue that point. Let’s find the uncompromising middle ground. A middle ground where we can recognize right from wrong, and maintain our convictions while not shunning those that are lost. People can be driven away by our desire to show our own devoutness. But God loves them just as much as He loves you. How can we act as if that’s not true?
Some people don’t want to change their path. Despite all of our best efforts in love and patience, sometimes it’s not enough. Not wavering in our beliefs while challenging them in theirs with kindness can still not be enough. But you don’t give up. You never give up. In conclusion, tolerance as defined by today’s culture is not loving. It’s ignorance of the peril and danger that someone else finds themselves in. The right move, however hard it can be, is to show genuine, loving intolerance. It’s hard. But it’s the right move; and sometime, it will all have been worth it to be lovingly intolerant.