Should Christians be tolerant? A common refrain now is the people need to be tolerant. We should be tolerant of other people’s religions, sexual preferences, identities, and gender choices. And tolerance means never telling anyone they are doing anything wrong. At least, that’s the narrative being pushed.
Christians often get tripped up by this assertion. After all, we should be kind to others, right? We are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. So isn’t being tolerant part of that?
The funny thing is, this tolerance only seems to go one way. We are supposed to be tolerant of other people’s positions, but they are free to be not so tolerant of our position. Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason refers to this as the passive-aggressive tolerance trick.
So should Christians be tolerant?
What Do You Mean By Tolerance?
The first thing to remember is that tolerance requires disagreement. You don’t tolerate a view you agree with. You just agree with it! We only tolerate ideas we disagree with. So the notion of tolerance entails disagreement.
This is a point that seems lost in the discussion in the culture today. To them, tolerance means acceptance. But there is a big divide between tolerating a view and accepting a view.
Christians should be respectful of other people in their conversations. We should be kind, and not misrepresent someone else’s view. But giving an idea a fair hearing is not the same as affirming that view to be true and valid. That is where we need to make the distinction.
Tolerance Is Too Low A Bar
Lastly, Christians are not called to be tolerant. As we pointed out earlier in this article, we as Christians have a command given to us by Jesus. Jesus didn’t tell us to tolerate our neighbors. He set the bar much higher. The command is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Love requires truth. Lying to someone isn’t loving, even if it’s a lie they want to hear. Affirming a destructive behavior isn’t loving. Any parent knows that letting a child do whatever they want isn’t loving. Do that and the child is likely going to get seriously hurt. The loving thing to do is to stop them from hurting themselves or others.
So should Christians be tolerant? No. Tolerance is too low of a bar. We need to be respectful of other people and give their ideas a fair hearing. But our command is not to tolerate, it is to love.
37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)
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