Does anyone out there have a real dictionary? If you do, have you looked up tolerance lately? Most of you might need to get to the computer and look it up, so let me help.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives as the primary definition: The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
Another related definition: Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.
If — and the emphasis is on IF — one were to read those definitions objectively, without bias or prejudice, we would find that tolerance is a wonderful word with a wonderful meaning.
But if you are a little unsure of the definitions you just read, let’s read the basic definition from Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Noah said, “the power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring.”
Noah said that tolerance comes from tolerate (both from tolero — to bear) which means: to suffer (allow) to be done without prohibition or hinderance; to allow or permit by not preventing; not to restrain; to tolerate opinions or practices.
If you are like I am and understand simple logic, that explains it satisfactorily. I can live with that understanding.
I believe that Jesus, called the Christ, was God before He was born, was God when He walked on earth and is God who will return to earth sometime in the future. And I have many friends who do not agree with me. Did you hear that? I called those who disagree with me friends. We accept each other, are tolerant of our divergent beliefs and go on with life. That is a healthy way to live.
Without backing down, changing my convictions, getting defensive or accusative, I do not try to change my friends’ opinions. To be honest, they kept trying to change mine, but that wasn’t my problem, and we remained on friendly terms.
But there are people who refuse to tolerate Christianity, who condemn Christianity, and who demand that Christians accept their beliefs. Not just tolerate their beliefs, but accept their beliefs. And they make these demands in the name of tolerance. Those folks who absolutely refuse to show me tolerance have an incorrect understanding of the concept, and wrongly declare that I am not tolerant of them. That is upside down, twisted and arrogant. It is also an open manifestation of hate.
What makes matters worse, many of our politicians have accepted this immoral, hateful double-standard, and have turned that hateful thinking into law. What has happened to our society?
As a good friend of mine said, “Wha’s a happenin’ to our world?”
Listen: Tolerance is not the issue, and never has been the issue.
It is simply a matter of hatred of Jesus Christ. And, of course, Jesus knew it and said it quite bluntly in John 15:18-19. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you” (NCV).
However, please listen to this: we are to love those who hate us. Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you” (NCV).
So, are you listening? Although there are times when we can say, as Jesus said, that those against us are like white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27), we must primarily be loving toward those who are against us.
Why? Excellent question.
Jesus said in Ephesians 6 — and we must get this into our minds — that our fight is not against people! The true fight is against evil forces, and we must — MUST — understand that truth.
Does that mean those who believe in and love Almighty God must roll over and play dead? Heavens, no! But we must learn how to conduct our battle.
The truth of the tolerance issue is this: we are to conduct our battle in prayer and with our attitude. At the same time, we should actively vote for those who believe in the Lord, but we must show love to those who oppose us.
Our goal is not to turn society around, but to reveal Christ Jesus to the world.
— S. Eugene Linzey is the author of ‘Charter of the Christian Faith.’ Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.