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“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.” (Colossians 3:13)

It was an unusual question, particularly in light of the setting in which it was posed. Nonetheless, the political candidates engaged in questioning were asked: “What friendship have you had that would surprise us, and what impact has it had on you and your beliefs?”  Obviously the question was intended to demonstrate that the individuals on the stage had tolerance for those who subscribed to a different political persuasion. Their answers would serve as the conclusion to a three-hour televised debate.  Just days before, a former conservative head-of-state was caught on camera laughing with and sitting next to a well-known liberal entertainment personality at a pro-football game. The entertainer was criticized in a social media backlash as to how she could possibly be friends with someone who held partisan views so different than her own. Her response: “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything does not mean I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same as you do, I mean be kind to everyone.”

Our world no longer defines tolerance as an acknowledgement that there are those with a differing belief. Instead, it has come to mean that we are expected to have full acceptance for the beliefs of others. There was a day not so long ago when we would respect individual differences.  No so much in recent times. On one hand, we hear much public discussion about the need for tolerance. On the other hand, those who stand for the truth of their own convictions are often branded as being narrow-minded, intolerant and judgmental. Unfortunately, this is often the case when it comes to matters of faith. The Lord has uniquely created each of us with our own personalities and preferences. Therefore, we won’t always agree with one another. This doesn’t mean that we can’t still love and respect each other in spite of our varying persuasions and convictions. It’s possible with the help of the Holy Spirit to respect those with different opinions. Colossians 4:6 instructs us: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The ability to rise above personal feelings and respectfully treat the intolerant reveals the true measure of our spiritual maturity.

Being labeled ‘intolerant’ for one’s Christian faith is an expected part of the journey, and at times we will suffer when we stand up for the word of God. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that we are to provide for those who may not be very tolerant of us. By doing so “you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads” (Romans 12:20). The Lord allows our interaction with people who don’t believe in Jesus or who differ in their views about matters of the faith. The key to being Christ-like in these situations is to keep your eyes on Him and not the person. We must be careful, however, to not endorse the modern belief that all religions lead to God. For the Christian, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), and that must not be compromised. We are called to tolerate and even love those whose beliefs (or lack of belief) is different than our own. In doing so, we place ourselves in a position to become an effective witness for what we believe to be true. Scripture says, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

Even the most intolerant of individuals can recognize true and unconditional love from Christians. Loving those who are intolerant of the faith empowers the believer to show love, just as Jesus did. If tolerance calls us to be respectful of the beliefs of others, then Christianity is in full agreement. Those who demonstrate true tolerance will seek God’s wisdom and discernment before speaking with people who they know will disagree with them (James 1:5). In the end, there are times that you just have to respectfully agree to disagree.  It is one thing to have and maintain a differing position; it is quite another to ridicule a person. We must hold fast to the Truth while showing compassion to those who question it.

REFLECTION: What types of personalities trigger your tolerance button? When you are challenged in your Christian belief, do you find that you are respectful or do become defensive? What steps might you take in order to become more tolerant of others who hold positions different than your own?


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