Are there many other words that we just can’t get enough of? Every time there is a disagreement voiced, it seems that tolerance must be the answer. People are called “intolerant” when they express their belief, even if they are not trying to impose what they believe on someone else. As I see it, it works both ways…A is called intolerant by B because A expressed what they believe or that they disagree with what B believes…but, this is, in itself, intolerant of B who calls A intolerant for the very same reason they blame alleged intolerance of A. Now, if A started name calling, judging and demanding that B change in order to suit A, than that would be intolerant. But, to merely express disagreement or different belief is not intolerant.
Tolerance does not mean to embrace, believe or accept what someone else does, how they live or what they believe. Surely, it is not fair to call me intolerant when I admit that I don’t believe abortion is right or that homosexuality is not God’s design for a personal/sexual relationship. I do not have to believe someone is right, I do not have to agree with them and I do not have to support them in their actions or lifestyle to be considered tolerant. I should, however, respect them right where they are, for who they are. That would mean, no name calling, no accusations, no judgments, no conditional acceptance of the person, no protesting their decisions…none of these amounts to any level of respect.
Let’s see the dictionary definition – we’ll just look at the first definition:
It is wrong to treat someone with judgment or contempt because they don’t live according to your standard. I am not declaring a “your truth” vs. “my truth” scenario. I am not saying that what is not right for one may be right for another. I truly believe that there is right and there is wrong. I believe that there is a way we feel is right and there is God’s way. However, as a Christian, your standard is what God has drawn you to and convicted you of. Why do you place such standards on people who have not chosen to follow Him? Why do we ever feel the need to tell people who do not follow God that they need to change? Who are we to enforce our convictions on another? Does this remind you of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day?
We need to forget about the sins.
“What?! But, sin goes against God – it’s unholy and unrighteous! Did you really just write that?”
Yes, you read that right. We need to get our focus off the sins of others and place our focus on people. If God Himself can tolerate us in our sin, who are we to throw people’s sins back in their faces? Who are we to take what we disagree with and try to make a law against it? Who are we to protest the actions and choices of others?
“Now, listen here, John…someone has to stand against sin and unrighteousness. Someone has to tell these people that we are not going to stand for them flaunting their sin in our faces.”
First, God can take care of Himself. He did not save us to be His personal police force. And, if He can tolerate sinful people, who are we to do any different? Nothing in scripture says we are supposed to tell people to stop sinning. Why do people strive to make others change just so they can feel comfortable – this makes it more about ourselves than it does others and that is backwards.
Somebody should protect the innocent. Somebody should use their voice to explain – with logic and intelligence – how some actions can lead to other more dire consequences. But, for those who undertake these responsibilities, it has to be done with tolerance in mind. We need to set aside anger and not let our emotions reign. We need to remember, we are dealing with people and that our battle is not with people.
I wonder…if people who place so much energy into spewing hatred toward others would redirect their energy into what Jesus told us to do, how different the picture might be. For example, people who subscribe to the Westboro Baptist stream of thought…what if they used that same energy to care for widows and feed the poor? Instead of protesting in front of clinics where abortions are performed, could someone give some of these women a “soft place to land” after making such a decision (without telling them how wrong they are)? Suppose we treat that couple who lives together with the same kindness, friendship and respect as we would anyone else – even if they have a child together, to love that child and share their joy in the birth of that child.
There is so much more we can do which will show more of what we are (supposed to be) for than what we are against. Let’s start with love, tolerance and patience – which God has shown us. We need to stop swimming against the tide of sin and start walking as the light of God’s love.