In 1996, the UN General Assembly designated November 16 ‘The International Day of Tolerance.’ In 1995 UNESCO created the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. It was launched on the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. It sparked my interest. What is “tolerance’ when applied through Christian thought?
I found an article ‘The Sin of Tolerance” by Dr Billy Graham, published February 2, 1959, by Christianity Today (USA). In a review of that article Ed Clark said, ‘tolerance’ was described as a pet word of the age. “It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life,” Clark observed. “The word ‘tolerant’ means ‘liberal,’ ‘broad-minded,’ ‘willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,’ and ‘the allowance of something not wholly approved.’
Yes I get all that, but as a Christian, just what am I supposed to tolerate and what should cause protest or at least resistance? Call me old fashioned but many today appear to believe in nothing. Constant brain-washing by TV, movies, magazines and social media have sucked us into a world that reduces genuine moral standards to look like narrow minded old fuddy-duddy restrictions. There appears to be an accumulative roll-over and say nothing approach to moral changes sweeping society.
Parents and teenagers have always fought over definitions. I remember years ago, the negativity I received for using rock and roll in our ministry. We packed our hall with teenagers but many thought rock and roll was ‘of the devil.” (I was very grateful when Larry Norman recorded ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the good Music’).
Today there is hardly any debate on issues like divorce, adultery, abortion and sexuality. Those who speak out to defend biblical standards are shutdown with a variety of bitter name-calling. We are categorized as narrow-minded, even wowsers. Sadly so many have been silent and that silence is taken to mean approval.
In her online article ‘A Biblical Perspective on Tolerance’ Rebecca S. May wrote: “God said there are certain rules and standards which are true for everyone. If there are no rules or standards which apply without exception to everyone, then everyone gets to decide for himself the rules which apply and truth is lost. For the majority of Christians, this is already happening.” (www.relationalconcepts.org) “Everyone does that which is right in their own eyes’ (judges chapter 17 verse 6) described it beautifully. I’m reminded of the old saying, “If it feels good, do it!” and that is a very dangerous GPS to follow.
When we proclaim ourselves to be Christians, what does that mean? How many Christians actually embrace a genuine ‘biblical worldview’? This may surprise. Barna Research found in a nationwide survey only 9 percent of American adults have a biblical worldview on morality. They found less than half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation (ie those aged 18 to 23), have a biblical worldview.
Barna summed up that finding this way: “… even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.” (Barna: How Many Have a Biblical Worldview – Christianity Today, March, 2009)
Truth is an essential part of Christian faith. Jesus called Himself ‘the way, the truth and the life.” We are told to worship the Lord ‘in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) So Truth has an important specific place in our faith.
Incidentally the Way, the Truth and the Life are all key. When you chose the Christian Way, you found the Bible and its Truth to be your most indispensable guide, and that connection leads to the Life whose peace ‘passes all understanding.’
Last June, Australia was rated to be one of the most tolerant nations on earth. US research, developed with the Harvard Business School rated Australia second in the world for personal rights. We were also acknowledged for ‘tolerance and inclusion.’ We only need to observe the nations where intolerance is a way of life to see deadly behavior causing grief, death and devastation.
I read an article written by Alfie Mumby-Cook a 15 year old student from Thames Christian College. He wrote: “As Christians in this changing society we should lead the way, setting an example of tolerance. We can welcome every individual, even if we cannot condone their lifestyle or accept their points of view. For tolerance does not demand that we regard all views as equally valid or acceptable and indeed the law supports this position. We should tolerate all people so long as they do no harm to others, in thoughts, in words or in deeds.”
Changing morality standards in our society must be resisted because they will eventually lead to decline for many. But we resist because we love. We love the Lord with all our heart and mind. We love our neighbor as ourselves.
Love teaches and lives truth. Our example is our best weapon. Francis Schaeffer wrote a wonderful series he called, ‘How Should We then Live?” The answer is simple. We must live the way we want the world to live. The Apostle Paul wrote: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” (Romans chapter 12, verse 18)
Tolerance applied in ‘spirit and in truth’ is a sometimes balancing act. I like the way Helen Keller said it: “Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.”
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at