Some things remain the same: the sun rises in the east, setting in the west. Roosters crow, babies cry, and too many potholes remain to be fixed. On the other hand, some things have changed in meaning. For instance, the word awful. Upon gazing at the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame, the king of France reportedly exclaimed, “My God, it’s awful.” When the Cathedral was completed in the 13th century the word awful meant full-of-awe, just as the word beautiful means full-of-beauty.
Over the years the word awful has come to mean something bad; terrible-a far cry from full-of-awe. Unfortunately, the same is true concerning tolerance and acceptance. Once upon a time tolerance meant putting up with, without agreement, without acceptance of what’s being tolerated. Not so now. Society, as a whole, has shifted to holding tolerance and acceptance as synonymous terms. In other words, to tolerate means to accept; to be intolerant is to not accept. But, is this really true? Is tolerance acceptance?
According to the Bible we are to love the sinner, while hating the sin. Jesus did. He told the woman caught in the very act of adultery to go and sin no more (John 8:3-11). Jesus wasn’t accepting what the woman did as alright-He called it sin. What Jesus did was not condemn the woman (verse 11)-and neither should we-when confronting sin. Like Jesus we tolerate the person, not the sin. We shouldn’t tolerate sin in our own lives, either.
The world’s view of tolerance is accept everything which they think is OK. If you don’t, you’re being intolerant. At the same time, those “preaching” tolerance are the most intolerant of them all, for they are intolerant of Christians, those standing for Biblical principles of absolute truth. More and more, the world is growing increasingly intolerant and unaccepting of anyone who opposes what they believe.
Is tolerance acceptance? Not according to the Bible no, in reality, according to what the world shows towards those with differing views. Without agreeing, I practice tolerance towards those with viewpoints contrary to the Bible. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t force my viewpoint on them. My manner of life speaks louder than my words. Does yours?
How about you? Is tolerance acceptance, in your life? How do you practice tolerance, without acceptance of that with which you disagree?