In today’s world, we are bombarded with the word “tolerance.” We are told to be more tolerant of other people’s views and lifestyles. Yet, what people seem to mean when they use the word “tolerant” is in reality “embrace.”
To embrace something, or someone, is to “accept or support willingly or enthusiastically.” Tolerate, on the other hand, means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Another common accepted definition of “tolerance” is to “put up with.” For Christians, we tend to take issue with the “without interference” portion of the definition.
Tolerance and Advocacy
Many people who advocate for tolerance also advocate for change in other areas. They advocate for tolerance in the LGBT community and change in political policy and other social issues. They do not “tolerate” the current laws and opinions of others, in the sense that they do interfere even though they “put up with” occurrences and practices for the time being. So why then are Christians being called “intolerant” for doing the same thing?
Christians “put up with” laws and opinions of others even though they do not agree. Like many people, they do not stand idly by and let what they view as the laws of God go by the wayside. They advocate for Christian values and morals in law and public policy, while respecting–yet not agreeing with–the views of others. Do all Christians do this–that is, act like “Christians?” No. However, those who oppose Christians do not always act with great character and decorum either.Both sides can do better, and both sides can learn from each other in practicing true tolerance.
Good is Evil and Evil is Good
“Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). We live in a time where individuals and governments do not heed this prophetic warning. We, as Christians, take this warning seriously and follow the admonition of Paul (Philippians 4:8) and the command of the Lord, that “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81). What we as Christians need is not so much tolerance, rather better tact.
We come across as intolerant mainly due to the poor tact we take in “warning our neighbors.” I cannot tell you to course of action and tone of voice to take in every situation and with every individual. I can tell you that if you are praying regularly and studying the word of God with diligence, then you will be led to know how to interact and share the gospel of Christ with others without being offensive or call intolerant. If all Christians do this, then maybe we will one day get to live the true meaning of tolerance.