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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Tolerance May Be Overrated

Different opinions and beliefs are a reality!

Ideological differences polarize people. If you question this, look at the divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans! And, if politics isn’t your arena, bring up a moral or religious belief and see what happens!

Different opinions and beliefs are a reality!

Our culture encourages us to be tolerant. But what does that mean?

A text-book definition reveals a tolerant person as one “willing to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

However, societal influence has morphed the definition. To be culturally tolerant today means that we are supposed to accept every belief as accurate!

If to be tolerant requires me to accept beliefs, which contradict my faith, I have a problem.

I recently came across a quote by G. Willow Wilson:

“Real tolerance means respecting other people even when they baffle you, and you have no idea why they think what they think.”

As a follower of Christ, I believe it is possible to love and respect people who have different beliefs. Also, these two virtues can be offered without surrendering one’s faith for fear of appearing to be intolerant.

It’s not popular today to question anyone’s religious beliefs. However, those who promote that opinion undermine their interpretation of tolerance. They are intolerant.

Perhaps it’s time for us to consider that being tolerant may be overrated!

To prohibit or discourage anyone from questioning beliefs — political, moral, or religious — is in and of itself an absolute moral position. What harm is there to challenge an idea? And, if we do question one’s belief, are we being immoral?

My faith is not blind! I have not reached my convictions without deep (and at times painful) questioning. I have wrestled with the teachings of Christ, many of which are difficult for me.

However, it has been in “the struggle” where I have learned the value of submission. Whether I agree or not, Jesus is LORD, not me.

Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments, we are commanded to question religious beliefs.

“If prophets or those who divine by dreams appear among you and promise you omens or portents, and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, “Let us follow other gods” (whom you have not known) “and let us serve them,” you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him, you shall hold fast.” - Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (ESV).

That doesn’t sound very tolerant!

As a follower of Christ, I am to question and test false spirits, because not everyone who claims to be a prophet of God, is. (1 John 4:1).

We are encouraged by our culture to believe that questioning one’s faith is being judgmental. More than once, I have heard someone quote Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”

Jesus’ command is not that we should never judge. It’s that we will not judge hypocritically!

The Pharisees were judging Jesus, finding him to be heretical. The kingdom Jesus is offering is not the kind of nation the Pharisees anticipate or desire. Their unwillingness to see the “plank” in their eye, while focusing on a speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye is hypocritical.

There are times when judging is needed. To judge means: “to distinguish” so that we “can decide.” Each of us makes judgments. The question is: “Are we making the right judgments?

As a follower of Christ, my faith foundation is established — not by popular opinion or preference, but — by the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments).

I admit, the teachings of the Bible frequently place me in conflict with cultural preference. It would be easier for me to become more “tolerant.”

However, as a follower of Jesus, I must be willing to be viewed by my current culture at times as “intolerant,” while always demonstrating love and respect for those who see differently than me.

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