Tolerance, Justice, Compassion ~
Christian Virtues or Political Ideologies?
Is there a difference between these concepts as being Christian or as their being political?
How are they Christian?
How are they political?
Now, I’m not a philosopher, nor a politician, nor even a theologian scholar. So I’m writing as just an ordinary Christ follower who is a wife, mother and grandmother. And who sits on the church pews on Sundays and lives an ordinary life during the week.
I may ask more questions here than I provide answers for. But I just wonder and ponder about these things . . . Because they do affect us all, especially in our times.
So I’m calling you to THINK with me as we contemplate these concepts together. Yes, this may well require you to put on your best thinking cap for a few minutes – not that you don’t actually do that all the time . . . .
Before we dive in, though, one word of explanation: it appears this post is going to end up becoming the first in a series of posts, because otherwise, it would be way too long. So here we go with this rambling brainteaser mind game, beginning with TOLERANCE . . . .
First, lets look at some definitions
What are we actually talking about here?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tolerance as:
a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b : the act of allowing something
The Wikipedia definition for tolerance or toleration is the state of tolerating, or putting up with, conditionally.
The Declaration of Principles on Tolerance: UNESCO as enacted on 16 November 1995 reads:
1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
So let’s THINK about this . . .
How do these definitions sound to you? Do they sound ok? Do you have issues with any aspects of these definitions? Perhaps you want to read them over again before we go on . . .
Have you been hearing these words used considerably in recent times? Or at least their implied concepts referred to?
In today’s society, at least in Western culture, it seems to me that such words have taken on new meanings, or at least new connotations, in recent years.
So let’s take a closer look . . .
The Merriam-Webster definition sounds pretty much straight forward to me, so we’ll let it stand as it is.
The Wikipedia definition is not bad, but the addition of the word “conditionally” at the end is confusing to me, and seems to leave several loose ends. I’m not exactly sure what they mean by “putting up with, conditionally”. Feel free to share your ideas about what exactly they mean by this.
Now read the UNESCO definition again. In several ways it sounds noble and suitable for society in our times . . .
Having recently come from serving far from our homeland, in a very different culture, where very different worldviews determine how people think about the world, about God, and about their way of life, I find some good and plausible aspects in this definition.
It’s commendable to respect and appreciate the rich diversity of world cultures. It’s important to have an open mind to learn about other people’s worldviews and how to communicate effectively and sensitively with them. It’s laudable when a society allows freedom of thought, conscience, and beliefs. And this tolerance can contribute to harmony in difference. It can even contribute to peace making, and to a culture of peace.
I’m not sure that it can, on its own, however, alleviate all war and usher in peace. There is so much more involved with the matters of war and peace among the nations of our world. But that is far beyond the scope of this post.
What does tolerance mean for Christians?
I do think, to a great extent, that tolerance can be a Christian virtue that displays love and care for all peoples of all locations of all times. 1 John 3 & 4 talks about that. In fact, John 13:35 says that Christ followers will be known by their love for one another. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins. Jesus even admonished that we are to pray for our enemies, and to forgive everyone who does anything offensive or hurtful to us.
The statement, however, “It [tolerance] is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement” gives me pause. Is this statement a contradiction to the previous statement, about allowing for freedom of thought, conscience, and beliefs? And who is empowered to determine the level of tolerance that is required legally and politically? And by the way, if any person violates this required moral, political, and legal duty, who and how are the consequences for such a violation determined and administered?
Further, does tolerance mean that we are required, politically and legally, to accept and make space for sin, and even to allow sinful lifestyles among the members and leaders in the church community?
How is the call for tolerance playing out in society?
Does it seem to you that those who have promoted tolerance the loudest in past years, are now the ones who are decrying others who don’t agree and approve of their perspectives and lifestyle? Are they the ones who are displaying hate for others with different views, values, and beliefs than them, rather than love? Are they the ones who now call certain groups of people bigots, racists, sexists, xenophobics, islamophobics, deplorables, irredeemables – and seek to marginalize them? Has hate become normalized in our society? What is tolerant about that?
What does, in fact, tolerance actually mean to those who have been promoting it all these years? Did it mean one thing to them a few years ago? But now does it mean something quite different? Are we seeing some sort of hypocrisy? Or am I just being unduly cynical?
One more thing, can you find the word, “tolerance” in the Bible? I don’t find it – at least not in the King James Version, NIV, or NASB. I do find the word “tolerate” in my NIV, where God “cannot tolerate wrong” (Habbakkuk 1:13), and He commends those who “cannot tolerate wicked men” (Revelation 2:2).
It does seem definite, that tolerance should not mean allowing particular minority groups to receive special allowance for not adhering to law and order. Nor should it mean making space or allowance for sin in the body of Christ. Because there is grace available for transformation – healing for ALL sin!
Tolerance for sin and sinful lifestyles is one thing.
Love, care, and forgiveness for all people is quite another!
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