Not long ago, the word ‘tolerance’ meant ‘bearing’ or ‘putting up with someone or something not especially liked’. Now, however, the word has been redefined to mean ‘all values, all beliefs, all lifestyles, all truth claims are equal’. Denying this logic brands a person as ‘intolerant’, and thus worthy of contempt. However, what the person means by saying, “You must be open to everything” is really, “You must be open to everything that I am open to, and anything that I disagree with, you must disagree with too.”
Where does this leave the average Christian? Matthew 5:43-48 states:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
This is the respectful tolerance of Christianity. Christians are tolerant of many aspects of modern Western society that other groups would never allow. Christ is openly mocked in the public square, including government and universities. Christ’s name is often referred to in such terms that if Muhammad, Allah, Buddha or another religious figure were treated as Christ is, it would cause serious violence to break out.
For a Christian, it may be difficult to speak the truth in today’s climate, but Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Pursuing truth in this context means countering the new doctrine of tolerance. It means teaching our children to embrace all people, but not all beliefs. It means showing them how to listen to and learn from all people without necessarily agreeing with them. It means helping them courageously but humbly speak the truth, even if it makes them the object of scorn or hatred.
Christians must also aggressively practice love. Everyone loves love, it seems, but few recognize how incompatible love is with the new tolerance. Tolerance simply avoids offending someone; we must model and teach our children to live in love, which actively seeks to promote the good of another person.
Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me.”
Tolerance says, “You must agree with me.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced ‘the truth will set you free.’ ”
Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk.”
Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.
The tolerance of Christianity is a respectful love extended from a position of absolute truth (John 14:6) to all people because all people have been created in God’s image. So which outcome would you prefer? Would you rather be tolerated or loved? This has already been seen in the Western World, where many religions will not tolerate criticism of any kind, but Christianity continues to turn the other cheek.  Author: Josh McDowell. Excerpted from Focus on the Family magazine (Colorado Springs, CO: 1999). Text Copyright © 1999, Focus on the Family.