It’s ironic that the people whom preach tolerance the hardest tend to be the least tolerant. That’s what happens when tolerance becomes your idol. Tolerance has become the holy grail in American culture. My pastor in Washington D.C., Mark Batterson says, “We live in a culture where it’s wrong to say something is wrong, and I think that’s wrong.”
I want to propose why I think that Biblical ethic for “tolerance” is far superior than what our culture promotes as tolerance. Most importantly it is far more loving.
In our culture’s framework, you “tolerate” only until someone disagrees with you, then you demonize them. They become awful, close minded, people who can’t think for themselves. You are by definition at this point, not tolerant of that person. The irony here is that people only have tolerance for those that think like them, or live like them.
In a Christian worldview, where love is the highest ethic, here is what scripture instructs us with. Regardless of what is done to me, or how someone may disagree with me, my response should always be love.
One of the most challenging verses in all of scripture says this, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” – Romans 13:8a. This verse has challenged me more than maybe any other verse in the Bible. Here is how a Biblical ethic of love, not tolerance operates.
You steal from me, my response should be……………love.
You offend me, my response should be……………love.
You reject me as a person, my response should be……………love.
You hurt me physically, my response should be……………love.
You disagree with my beliefs, my response should be……………love.
You take away my “American” freedoms, my response should be……………love.
You sue me, my response should be……………love.
I could go on and on. This is why a Biblical ethic is so superior. There is nothing you can do to me, that I am not still required to show you love. Its the ultimate “tolerance.” I not just simply am commanded to tolerate you, but I am commanded to love you, despite that you disagree with me, despite that you offend me, despite that you take away my “freedoms.”
The Biblical ethic always takes it one step further. If you are a follower of Christ, don’t do what our culture says and simply “tolerate” people who are different from you, that’s not real love. Tolerance is conditional love. We are called to a much higher standard.
The reason we can do this, is because my sin against God far outweighs anything that anyone could ever to do me. As Romans 5:8, says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus loved me despite how my life offended Him, despite how rebellious I was. Because I have been shown such great mercy and love, my only response in the way that I treat others, by the supernatural, empowering grace of the Holy Spirit, despite what they may do to me, is to love them.