Thoughts On… {Tolerance}

 

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Say you have a friend; let’s call him Robert. He’s a nice enough guy for the most part – good with kids, bad at lying, and a mediocre harmonica player – but there’s this one thing you just can’t tolerate: you’re a Republican and he’s a Democrat.

Annette, on the other hand, is great! You both prefer cats to dogs, you go to the same hair stylist, and she even likes Ken’s Steakhouse Creamy Caesar dressing on her lettuce wedges, just like you! Of course there’s that little detail about her being an atheist while you’re a Christian, but hey, you’ll graciously let that slide since that’s got to be the more loving thing to do, right?

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So… are you being a better example of toleration with Robert or Annette? The answer is, NEITHER. Tolerance is not simply saying that anything is okay. It is not simply suppressing your beliefs. It is… well, this quote says it better than I can:

“A truly tolerant person does not refrain from making judgments, but rather refrains from using power to get others to change their beliefs, relying instead on persuasion. – Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult

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It seems like today, toleration is held up as the supreme virtue. As a culture, America is becoming more and more “tolerant” of things that people haven’t tolerated for years. (I’m not going to go too deep into this subject, but here’s a fabulous post on that topic which you should totally check out.)

Toleration has come to mean “don’t judge me.” And the second half is usually, “…but I can judge you because you’re obviously wrong and I’m right.” But as the quote says, true tolerance doesn’t mean not holding beliefs or withholding judgment. True tolerance involves respecting and loving the person, even if you disagree with their beliefs.

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For example. Shortly after getting married, my parents started going to a different church than they had gone to growing up. And not just to a different building, but to a different denomination with theology that was almost the complete opposite to what practically every person in their families and extended families held.

I can only imagine how hard that was for everyone concerned. But you know what? We still love our family very much, and our famiy still loves us! We are blessed to have a close, friendly relationship with our relatives for the most part, something for which I am extremely grateful.

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I say this not to point out that we’re a perfect family (heh heh, we all know that’s impossible), or to bash one denomination or the other, but as a reminder that even when we hold different beliefs, we can still be tolerant. You can still love people who believe differently than you. 

And you know what? Maybe our differences aren’t as big as we sometimes make them out to be. In our case, we’re still Christians! Our grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles… they’re still Christians! We share a common core, a common foundation, which is the love of Christ. That is the most important thing, not the way we dress or how we hold church services or what kind of hymns we sing.

Those decisions are important too, don’t get me wrong, but I think we Christians tend to argue over the details and forget the glorious big picture. We remember all too easily what we don’t have in common, and forget that we share a huge, glorious bond. Besides the fact that arguing and fighting among ourselves is not at all a winsome witness to unbelievers, this can damage our own spirits as well.

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Remember that though we continue to splinter into finer and finer twigs and facets of belief, we are all growing from a common Vine, (John 15:5) nourished by the same Water of Life. (John 4:13-14)

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Anyway, I think this is part of the reason why we are still so close to our family: you have to acknowledge differences, yes, but don’t dwell on them unless they are really worth it. Sometimes they will be worth it. Do not just ignore sin. But also keep in mind that picking at tiny cracks can make them chasms one day. Dwell on the similarities, and love each other well. I think that is a better attitude to have toward tolerance than  a defensive “don’t judge me” attitude.

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So, don’t dismiss important differences about a person in favor of superficial similarities, like we did in our example with Annette, but also don’t be so focused on one weakness or difference in opinion that you’re blind to their wonderful strengths, like we were with Robert. Robert was under-tolerated and Annette was over-tolerated. As with anything, you can fall from either side of the cliff. And neither direction shows love.

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How can you fix these problems? First, if a difference is too important to ignore, present your beliefs “… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Secondly, be careful what you’re offended at.”If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)

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You have a choice to be offended at something or to let it go. Choose wisely, for what you are offended at shows what is important to you. It’s perfectly fine to graciously disagree about things, and it’s great that we all have our own ideas, but make sure that your level of offense is equal to the value you place on that belief. 

If we’re so offended by Robert’s politics but not by Annette’s entirely different worldview, what message does this send to others? If you’re really offended about something, take time to ask yourself – why is this so important to you? And should it be? 

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So what should we be offended at? The twisting of the gospel. Don’t just shrug your shoulders when people take out the “less palatable” parts of the gospel like the fact that we are sinners justly deserving the wrath of a holy God, in favor of the (of course still very true!) parts of the Bible such as “God is love.” If the gospel you tell non-believers isn’t offensive to them, it probably isn’t the true gospel.

We must tell all of the gospel, the easy and the difficult, for there’s no reason to run to Jesus to be washed of our sins if we don’t believe we’re dirty. If you share the gospel truly, don’t you believe God is strong enough to change that person’s heart, despite the fact that the Truth is hard to swallow sometimes?

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Alright, I’m nearly done here, but I just wanted to say… this post was really hard to write. Really hard. Partly because I’m no expert in tolerance myself. In fact, often I’m downright terrible at it. It’s easy to judge others for insignificant details and hard to confront them about the larger problems. It’s hard to respect other people when we feel we can’t respect their beliefs. It’s just hard to love, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I hope that in the places where by God’s grace I may have written some truth, it could encourage you as thinking about this has encouraged me: to be truly tolerant.

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My dears, in a world where there is so much to take offense at, be discerning. In a world where it is so easy to judge harshly, be gentle. In a world where it is so easy to lash out, be loving. In a world where people proudly proclaim that they’re right and everyone else is wrong, be humble about your beliefs. Be tolerant of most things, but don’t dismiss the most important things.

Be careful what you’re offended at.

***Allison***

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45 thoughts on “Thoughts On… {Tolerance}

  1. WOW. This is absolutely amazing. I hate it how people – especially Christians – try to shove things down people’s throats and make them believe something. But instead of bringing people to God, most times we drive them away. I like to think of Jesus eating with sinners… We should do the same and love our fellow sinners (because we ALL sin) or people who don’t agree with us. We should welcome them into Christianity and not drive them away, but respect them and their opinions, because God made them just like He made you and me.

    LOVE THIS. *applauds*

    Liked by 3 people

    1. AWW THANK YOU SO MUCH. And YES, I 100% agree, Charis! I think it helps to think of it in reverse – would you like it if they presented THEIR beliefs to YOU with the same attitude that you’re presenting your beliefs to them. (Wow that was confusing. XD)
      THANK YOU AGAIN, and thanks for the great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this Allison! I haven’t heard it explained this clearly before, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly! I’ve had trouble getting along with a friend who has many different beliefs then me, but I’m learning to just focus on the fact that we both love Jesus and that is the most important thing! 💜

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  3. Tolerance is such a crazy subject in American today. I think your statement “don’t judge me, but I can judge you because you’re obviously wrong and I’m right” helps sum it up! Maybe even, “I’m judging you of not being tolerant because you can’t accept what I believe.”? We must love people, and care for them. But we cannot just tolerate/accept sin. A terrible thing is how many people are in the church thinking they are “safe” and being assured they are “safe” when they are not (cheap grace).
    Hopefully this comment made some sense 😉 . This can be a tricky topic to describe, so I appreciate you taking it on. We must turn to the Bible for our authority and guide in these situations. 🙂
    ~Gracie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, I know. Yes, that’s a good way to sum it up too! Yeah, you’re right. Heh heh, don’t worry, it made sense to me (for the most part anyway :P). Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, dear, and reminding us that the Bible is where we should ultimately turn – I 100% agree!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question! Um… a lot of things. I think I first got the idea when I found that quote, but then I added to the post in my mind as I listened to my pastor’s sermons and classes and just whatever and whenever God laid it on my heart. 🙂 These types of posts are usually a long time coming for me, but once I start thinking about it, it seems like there are examples of what I’m trying to say everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. AHHH THIS IS SO GOOD, ALLISON. I really think you did a wonderful job saying what needs to be said on a really hard topic, and your writing style is so good and easy to read. I can really see it mature over the years and your serious posts have been getting better and better, dear! Also the pictures were beautiful. 🙂

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  5. “We must tell all of the gospel, the easy and the difficult, for there’s no reason to run to Jesus to be washed of our sins if we don’t believe we’re dirty. If you share the gospel truly, don’t you believe God is strong enough to change that person’s heart, despite the fact that the Truth is hard to swallow sometimes?”
    Woah, Allison. This is needed. Thank you a bunch for writing it!

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  6. WOW, this was GREAT, Allison. I could write a very, very long comment addressing everything you wrote, but I’ll just say… I agree with you wholeheartedly on this. 🙂 The double standard I seem to be seeing everywhere, the idea of, like you said, “I can judge you because you’re obviously wrong and I’m right”, bothers me more and more, and this post was basically my exact thoughts put into words.
    We don’t have the authority to judge anyone, because we’re all equally broken. All that we have the right to do is show our fellow sinners the love of Christ, not condemn them for their sin that is no worse than our own. Finding the balance between, like you said, totally ignoring beliefs that don’t align with our own and trying to force others to conform to our views – that’s hard. I think you tackled this subject really well. ❤ I loved what you said at the end – "In a world where people proudly proclaim that they’re right and everyone else is wrong, be humble about your beliefs." Amen to that. 🙂
    Also, the photos in this post were so beautiful! Where do you get all these gorgeous flowers? *gazes sadly at our withered zinnias* XD
    I always love your "thoughts" posts and I can't wait for the next one! 🙂

    -Clara ❤

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    1. Thank you so, SO much for this fabulous comment, Clara! I’m so happy you liked the post, and thank you muchly for sharing your thoughts. I definitely agree with what you said. *nods firmly*
      Also thank you again! Heh heh, they’re actually from Megan’s flower garden! 🙂
      Thanks again (again again XD)!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is SO WELL WRITTEN! Allison, God has truly given you a gift with words. Keep using that gift to bring a positive force to this world, because it seriously needs it.

    Thank you for this!!

    -Bekah ❤️

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  8. Yes yes yes!! Amazing message. (The same thing happened with our parents, going to a different church! It didn’t cause trouble, thankfully — we’re still on great terms with our extended family.)

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  9. Amen! You know, I have found that being tolerant in a truthful, loving way is most difficult when the conflict is not out there in the world, but within our own small circles of influence…especially with family. It is difficult to love and not let bitterness take root in circumstances when family actually turns AWAY from you because of your beliefs. However, the gift is found when one realizes that staying loving toward a person who rejects you is just what Jesus did for humanity. Now THAT took love 🙂 ….Keep up the wonderful and inspiring posts!

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  10. Amazing post on tolerance, we can disagree with someone and still be respectful and loving..I ha close friends and family members who don’t share in all of my personal political and spiritual beliefs, but we don’t treat each other any differently because of it or try to force our beliefs on each other.

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  11. Girl! Preach it! 😉
    This is something soo many of us need to realize. You don’t have to agree with a person’s actions in order to love them. Disagreeing with someone isn’t hating on them, like so many people seem to think. 😛
    And on the other spectrum, being divided over trivial things. Like, yes, music! My parents also started going to other churches besides the denomination most of our family goes to sometime when they were first married. So we know about that! 😉
    Anyhow, thank you for writing this post! 😀

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  12. OH, this post was amazing! I completely agree with your stance on tolerance; it’s hard to accept that some people believe other things when they keep the “I’m right and you’re incredibly wrong” attitude, but God never said that bring a Christian wouldn’t be easy!

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  13. We live in an inter-faith and inter-racial household. Being that I am a Christian and my Asian husband comes from a different religion all together. We’ve been married 14 years, have 4 beautiful girls, and most thought it would never last. We’ve had challenges, but learned to be respectful and what buttons not to push – because love of our family is more important than being right. Our demographics is changing a lot in the West. There are a lot of different races, religions, cultures who are now our neighbors – and the ‘foreign’ ‘strange’ practices that go along with it. Just like in a family, we should treat others differences delicately whenever possible. And it needs to come from a place of trying to understand the other. If we care more about having close, friendly communities than being right. As long as people follow the law, we can tolerate differences. Sadly, not everyone cares enough and most are afraid of change. Nice post Allison 🙂

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    1. Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts! I’m so glad to hear your marriage has lasted even with differences like that – I can imagine that would be hard. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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