Tolerance is such a buzzword these days. Usually, when someone says they are tolerant, they mean they support the pride movement. But what does being "tolerant" actually mean? Is it a good thing?
In philosophy, definitions are vital. So let's start with a detailed explanation of tolerance.
I get all my definitions from dictionary.com
A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
What exactly does this mean? It means we need to have a "fair, objective, and permissive attitude" towards different people. What does it mean to have a "fair, objective, and permissive attitude?" Let's look at the definitions of those words.
- Fair - free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.
- Objective - not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.
- Permissive - habitually or characteristically accepting or tolerant of something, as social behavior or linguistic usage, that others might disapprove or forbid.
By these definitions, a fair and objective attitude is an unbiased attitude, not influenced by personal feelings or prejudiced in any way.
A permissive attitude is an attitude of accepting something different or something that someone might disapprove of. In that case, to be tolerant is to be fair, unbiased, not influenced by personal feelings or prejudiced in any way, and to accept or understand and or be permissive.
Tolerant of What?
Before we can decide if tolerance is biblical, we need to know, tolerance of what? If we are talking about the tolerance of hip-hop, the answer is probably yes. Even though I'm not too fond of rap, I understand that some people like it.
The way tolerance is used most in our culture is to justify tolerating sin. Is it right to tolerate sin?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
To be tolerant, we need to be fair, objective, and permissive. It is not okay to be permissive toward sin, and we need to fight it with everything in us.
If we cannot be tolerant towards sin, can we be lenient towards the sinner? Yes, we can. Because if it were not for the grace of God, we would be worse. We are not fighting the sinner, we are fighting sin.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. — Ephesians 6:12
Well, first of all, it is biblical to be fair and objective. We should not have a bias because of the person's skin color, hair color, the way they talk, or anything else. We should approach the situation with the knowledge that there is objective truth, and it is in the Bible.
Second, we should approach with love and humility. We need to realize that if it were not for the grace of God, we would be in the same situation or worse. We also need to recognize that we are not the ultimate authority. We cannot judge a person, but we can judge a sin objectively using the Bible.
Thirdly, we need to remember that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." The person is not the enemy, sin is the enemy. Now maybe the person is being used by the enemy, but he is not the enemy. So do not treat him like one. Pray that God would conquer him and use him mightily for the kingdom.
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. — Romans 9:16
Fourthly, I know I have already covered this in part, but humility is vital. It was not by your will or exertion that you were saved but by the mercy of God. Before you were saved, you were "dead in your trespasses and sin." (Ephesians 2:1) You did not and could not have raised yourself from the dead. But like Lazarus, God called you from the dead, and you could not resist it. Could Lazarus keep himself from being raised from the dead? No, he could not. God called, and he came forth—alive. If it were not for the grace of God, you would still be dead in your trespasses and sin.
Is it Biblical?
So is tolerance biblical? Sometimes. We should always be humble and recognize that something is different does not mean it is wrong. We should check to see if it glorifies God by checking with the Bible. If so, it is okay. If not, we still need to be humble and loving, and depending on the circumstances, we should point it out.
What is Biblical Tolerance?
A person with biblical tolerance is loving, kind, and understanding. He recognizes the sin in others and uses that to examine himself. He is not haughty or proud. He is filled with humility and acknowledges that if God had not given him mercy and grace, he would be in the same situation or worse.