Tolerating Tolerance

Tolerance is a celebrated, politically correct concept in our society. It is promoted as the means to attaining a civilization free of bigotry. In fact, the word is officially defined in that way. Those who so aggressively promote it warn that intolerance is the greatest danger we face. But is it actually possible to have a society that is totally free of bigotry? Is it not true that requiring people to accept a specific philosophy regarding bigotry is in itself a form of bigotry? In essence, you would have to demonstrate intolerance toward those with whom you disagree, thereby violating your own position. Unfortunately, those who shout the loudest about tolerance are usually the most intolerant.

So what does scripture say about tolerance? Those who promote tolerance like to quote Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  But Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to have an opinion, debate it, or even pass sentence on someone for violating the law. He was instead condemning injustice, which was rampant when he was on earth. Are there other passages which address this issue? Indeed, they are numerous:

Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

I Corinthians 5:11 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

II John 10-11 “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

What do all of these verses have in common? The second one clearly applies to brethren (other believers), while the first and third refer to false teachers. Yet they all command believers to embrace, and defend righteousness, while demonstrating intolerance toward those who promote evil.

Doing so in a scriptural manner requires careful attention to several stipulations:

  • Attitude is important. We must take our stand with humility and meekness. Failure in this area brings reproach upon the name of Christ and sends a message of arrogance. It also leaves us without God’s help or support. – “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).
  • Consistency is essential. Excusing certain specific sins (those that we deem to be of minor significance) while aggressively condemning others is bigotry at its worst.
  • Scriptural support is vital. It is devious, unjust, and shameful to insist that we have biblical support for our position when none exists. Twisting scripture demonstrates spiritual ignorance, making our argument baseless and destructive. – “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

Tolerance is not a Bible virtue. It has become, in our society, a means to promote and defend that which is evil. After all “everything is relative,” and “there are no absolutes.”

Those who promote tolerance say that the greatest danger to our society is intolerance. It’s not. Tolerating tolerance is.

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