You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45
If you want to know how tolerant you really are, do not look at your own mistakes but look at the mistakes of your worst enemy. Do not measure your tolerance when you got a scratch on the new car because the parked one was way too far out from the curb. Measure your tolerance when your wife roundly smashes the left front fender.
When it happened to you, it was an unfortunate accident, just one of those things. But when it happens to someone else, it is the result of carelessness. Tolerance does not involve your mistakes, only the mistakes of others. Tolerance has little to do with what you think or do‑‑it deals with your reaction to what others do or think. Webster says tolerance is to allow beliefs, practices, and attitudes that differ from your own. Tolerance deals with individuality and individual tastes.
If we were all alike, we would have no need for tolerance. But God made us unlike each other. There is a scene in Leon Uris's book Exodus where Ari is falling in love with the American nurse, Kitty Fremont. Ari's background is Jewish and he is giving his life to establish the state of Israel. Ari turns to Kitty and says, "We are different, any way you look at it; our customs and backgrounds are different."
There are differences in backgrounds and cultures, and those differences are good. They give identity and a sense of belonging to homes and families. Some would like to eliminate those differences and make everyone the same‑‑like a string of paper dolls. Tolerance involves accepting the differences in life that are the result of different backgrounds and ideas.
There are two golden keys to the door of tolerance. One is acceptance, and the other is understanding. Acceptance usually precedes understanding. To accept the differences of thought in another person does not mean that you do not believe that your ideas are important, or that your way of life is not valid; it means that you are willing to allow someone else to have ideas or concepts that are different from your own. The more you accept a person as a person whose outlook is different from yours, the more you will grow to understand him.
History tells us that men have never been tolerant of those who differ from them. We are like the fellow who said, "There are two ways to look at this‑‑my way and the wrong way."
There are two sides, though, to the coin of tolerance. In spite of what I have said, there is an end to this business of tolerance. Be tolerant of individual differences in taste and thought, but in matters of honesty, integrity and principle there is little room for tolerance. Is there room for tolerance when a sex‑maniac roams your neighborhood? Is there room for tolerance when a dishonest employee is stealing his employer blind? Is there room for tolerance when a man turns traitor to his government? Immediately it becomes clear that tolerance involves individuality, not moral spinelessness.
By those standards Jesus was one of the world's most intolerant men. He was intolerant of falsehood, corruption, hypocrisy, and dishonesty. His heart went out to men and women who were weak in the flesh. He freely offered forgiveness to those who would trust Him. He was tolerant of the sinner but intolerant of his sin. His forgiveness was followed by the words, "Go and sin no more." Rethink your capacity for tolerance. In essentials, unity; in non‑essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
Resource reading: Psalm 1:1-6