Dig Deeper: What Is Tolerance?

What tolerance is not

In 1 Peter 3:15, we are exhorted to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Speaking with gentleness and respect is especially important when controversial or sensitive topics are brought up in a discussion. When someone expresses a view that goes directly against what we believe to be right, should we remain silent or should we speak up? How should we respond to others who do not share the same beliefs as us?

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

This statement might sound familiar. When sensitive or taboo topics arise, people usually claim the right to have their own opinions, beliefs, or values. If anyone tries to speak out against another’s opinion, the person risks being labelled closed-minded or bigoted. Tolerance used to mean that people have a right to their opinions — so everyone should be allowed to say what they think. Today, tolerance is embraced as recognising that all opinions are right — so no one is allowed to say someone is wrong.

While this may be the current trend in society, it is not truly biblical. Tolerance as defined today is a worldly virtue, not a godly one.

What tolerance is 

God’s display of love towards us is this: He loves us without approving our sinful nature. However, how do we demonstrate this in our human relationships? We can look at how Jesus exercised tolerance.

When Jesus was faced with opposition, he always responded in love, yet was always uncompromising on the truth. Following God’s example of love, we can understand tolerance to mean respecting and loving others even when you do not share their values, beliefs and practices. Be kind, helpful and gracious to whomever you meet, even if they may not have the same values or views as you on various issues.

Our response

When engaging in a discussion with friends who do not share the same values as us, we do not immediately seek to correct their values or beliefs, nor do we seek to win an intellectual argument with them. Our goal as Christ-followers is to extend a hand of Christlike love to everyone we meet, whether or not they share our beliefs. We should first seek to act upon the truth that we know, instead of using the truth as a weapon in a debate (1 John 3:18).

There will be times when it is necessary for you to speak the truth. Remember, it is not ‘your’ truth, but the eternal truth of God. Speak with confidence, knowing that the Word of God will not falter or fail.

As we ask God to reveal His truth to us, may we be more equipped to speak the truth in humility, love, gentleness and respect. Make the following verse your prayer today!

“Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psa 86:11, ESV).

Hannah Leung
Upon graduation, Hannah invested some money and a lot of time into picking up a new skill — sewing. She has since become her family's alteration master.

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