The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Tolerance
A Misunderstood Virtue
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
The dictionary defines tolerance as “respecting the nature, beliefs, or behavior or others.” To tolerate someone means to respect his opinion without necessarily agreeing with him. In that sense, tolerance is a noble virtue, for it allows us to live amicably with people who may be quite different from us. Indeed, without tolerance no society (or community or church or family, for that matter) could long endure.
Tolerance in the classical sense requires that we hold our convictions firmly while at the same time respecting those who may disagree. Sometimes tolerance will mean enduring foolish comments and overlooking offensive behavior by others.
But there is another, darker definition of tolerance emerging. Josh McDowell argues that toleration has replaced justice as the primary American virtue. Tolerance today means that every view of truth and morality is equal to every other view. This view of toleration differs from the classic view in that it says that there is no such thing as absolute truth. If you dare to tell someone else that what he is doing is wrong, you are going to be branded an intolerant bigot. In this view, everything is right and nothing is wrong. Some educators now argue that the public schools must teach students to be intolerant of intolerance. And who is the most intolerant of all in the eyes of the world? Christians are, because we believe in a Creator who established absolute standards of right and wrong. It may well be that in just a few years we will see a major cultural shift in which anyone who dares to speak out for God or against evil will risk being ostracized and publicly humiliated.
If that is true, then we will face some tough decisions in the days ahead. Satan’s strategy has always been to stir up opposition to the church so that we will be intimidated into silence and compromise. It was true in the first century and it is still true today.
You may face opposition at work or from a critical colleague or from a classmate, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, a relative, or even from your children or your spouse. Satan’s primary strategy against the church is to discourage us by stirring up opposition so that we will stop spreading the Gospel.
In the years following World War II, the Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood observed that America had become a “cut-flower” society where the bloom of Christian values had been cut off from its roots in the truth of God’s Word. So much that passes for accepted truth is “accepted” simply because enough people have naively “accepted” it. But we as Christians do not determine our view of the world by reading the latest Gallup poll or by silently acquiescing to the views the majority currently happens to hold. As a matter of fact, the majority has usually been wrong throughout history, especially on matters of morality and spiritual truth.
Stand up for what you believe. Don’t be intimidated by those who disagree, but don’t be disagreeable either. Speak the truth, do it in love, and be patient with those who don’t see things the way you do.
Lord Jesus, may I have Your perfect balance of grace and truth today. Amen.
What signs do you see of the “new” tolerance today? When does tolerance become compromise?
Where do you need to show more tolerance right now? Where do you need to stand up for what you believe?
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