In his 1998 book, “The New Tolerance,” Josh McDowell gives the definitions of “traditional tolerance” and “the new tolerance.” He defines the new tolerance by quoting Fernando Savater who wrote, “Tolerance… is that all opinions are equal… and all should be respected or praised.” I agree that this cancer of unbelief was permeating society and is even more so now, fourteen years later.
But what is real tolerance and biblical tolerance, and how does it fit Christianity today. Is there room for it in our doctrinal and practical standards? The Oxford Dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability to accept things one dislikes or disagrees with.”
The Christian tolerance that I think needs re-defining is the tolerance needed between brothers and sisters in Christ that allows us to disagree on matters that are not critical to our faith without dividing us in regard to fellowship. For example, if I think the new vinyl siding on the parsonage should be white and another thinks it should be gray – does it matter? Should I be disgruntled or upset? Never! Yet, sometimes we let insignificant things divide us. Paul says in I Corinthians 13:5-7, “Charity… seeketh not her own,… beareth all things,… endureth all things.” This simply means that true godly love toward others is not selfish, always finds a way to forgive, and is strong and durable.
Paul strengthens his proposition about how we are to get along in our relationships in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Very likely, if this command was practiced, our tolerance for each other as Christians, in Christian matters, would be high. Of course, Paul goes on to show us the perfect example of humility and grace – Christ Jesus. The Creator of the universe took on Himself the form of a servant and then gave His life and shed His blood because He loved us so much. How can we do any less than love one another and exhibit biblical tolerance, “real tolerance.”
Post by: Robert Booker
This post appears in the April 2012 Open Bible Bulletin.