Saturday, April 30, 2011

The True Meaning of Tolerance

Tolerance.  We hear this word used a lot today.  Mostly, it's touted by special interest groups trying to push their own agendas, and clearly these groups have no idea what the word really means.

Tolerance doesn't mean I have to agree with someone's opinion, belief, practice, lifestyle, etc.  But, the special interest groups act like this is a requirement or you're intolerant.

Tolerance as defined by the online dictionary is "a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc. differ from one's own."  To practice tolerance means to "agree to allow the right of something that one does not approve."

Did you catch that last part?  To be tolerant doesn't mean I have to approve of the special interest's agenda. Tolerance doesn't mean I must condone, accept as right, agree to embrace something I believe is wrong.  Tolerance means I can agree to let someone else believe differently than I do and agree they have the right to do so.

Somewhere along the way, the special interest groups have redefined tolerance.  Tolerance to them means I have no right to not approve of their agendas, lifestyles, beliefs, and practices.  To them, if I don't agree with them then I'm intolerant.  Nevermind that I would never discriminate against a person based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.  Nevermind that I think it's wrong to mistreat any human being based upon their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.  That's not good enough.  I must embrace things I don't approve of or else I'm a hate monger, narrow-minded, an imbecile, a weak-minded Christian, and of course intolerant.

I believe the Bible is the Word of God and it clearly explains what is right and wrong.   But, according to those who so strongly believe in tolerance, I have no right to believe as I do, and; therefore, I'm intolerant.  In other words, all of these people and groups really only believe in tolerance when it promotes their agendas, opinions, ideas, practices, and beliefs.

Jesus says Christians will be hated and persecuted because we believe in Him and the Father who sent Him.  And, I need only to look at comments that some of my friends on Facebook make to realize how true this is for Christians today.  The amazing thing to me is these people never think they may be hurting one of their friends by the ugly intolerant comments they make.  Or maybe, they don't care since I'm a Christian and they're not.  They're practicing the very thing they espouse to hate so much - intolerance.

What I do know is I'm not as tolerant as I once was.  Not because my belief about treating people as I would want to be treated has changed.  It hasn't.  I'm less tolerant because I have been insulted, demeaned, and shown intolerance because I believe in Jesus, God, and the Bible.  And, I suspect many other Christians feel the same way.  Our comfort though comes from Jesus himself:  "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:11-12). 

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