Today, November 16, is the International Day for Tolerance.
It is a day officially designated by the United Nations, which “is committed to strengthening tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and peoples.”
From their web page, the UN offers this explanation for this day which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
“This imperative lies at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterized by a fundamental disregard for human life.”
“Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgment, critical thinking, and ethical reasoning. The diversity of our world’s many religions, languages, cultures, and ethnicities is not a pretext for conflict, but is a treasure that enriches us all.”
The word “tolerance” is derived from the Latin “tolerare” which means to “put up with,” “to bear,” or “to endure.”
Tolerance toward others with whom we may disagree involves respect, patience, kindness, and common courtesy. Religious journalist John Cogley once wrote, “Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.”
The Bible speaks to the issue of tolerance in Romans 14 and 15 among brethren. Christianity brought together in one body both Jews and Gentiles among whom were huge differences in their practice, customs, and personal conscience regarding religious issues. The apostle Paul says some were “strong in the faith,” while others were “weak in faith.” Yet, they are urged to respect one another, not to unfairly judge, and to live together in harmony.
There are many issues of expediency, conscience, and judgment among brethren about which we draw vastly different conclusions. Each of us must learn to “accept one another” (Rom. 14:1), “be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32), to “care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25), and to “love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
We ought not to be disrespectful, discourteous, or contemptuous toward those with whom we differ politically, morally, or even religiously. The Bible offers this important imperative we all need to practice in Colossians 4:5-6.
“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Tolerance, however, doesn’t mean we must compromise our convictions, whitewash sin, or agree with ungodliness. The spirit of respect and tolerance doesn’t demand that we must accept every idea as equally valid, every philosophy as equally true, and every lifestyle, no matter how bizarre, as equally right.
It means that even when we have serious moral, religious or value-based differences we can respond graciously, “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and treat others the way we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). It allows us to see everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or social status as a person valued by God, created in His image, and with a soul worth saving.
The Biblical view of tolerance has its application in our posts on social media, in the popular slogans we repeat, or even the T-shirts we wear or refuse to wear.
Finally, Timothy Keller expressed it well when he wrote: “Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman