Tolerance is one of those hot buzz words frequently used in our cultural debates of the day. Tolerance is generally regarded as a virtue. Tolerance meaning to allow, to put up with, especially with regard to ideas or moral issues. In America tolerance is particularly treated as virtue because our country was built on the principle of granting a certain freedom of dissent.
In the new educational strategy entitled Quality Performance Accreditation (OBE), the Kansas State Board of Education in 1992 adopted ten "clearly defined outcomes that all students must demonstrate when they exit." One of those was written as follows: "All students are tolerant of individual differences and work together without prejudice, bias, or discrimination."
Tolerance is regarded as a great virtue. The scriptures even speak of God as exercising tolerance. What about tolerance?
First, tolerance does not mean to embrace or to even accept. In fact, it is impossible to tolerate something you like or embrace. To tolerate means that you put up with something you don't particularly like or that may even be most disgusting to you. Therefore, if I do not like a certain behavior or if I speak out against a certain lifestyle it is not accurate or fair to label me intolerant. In certain quarters today one is labeled quite intolerant if he speaks out against certain behaviors like homosexuality or abortion on demand or porn on the airwaves. But this is not intolerance because tolerance presupposes that one does not like that which he tolerates. Many people today in these various lifestyles are calling on us to embrace their sin in the name of tolerance. Tolerance does not require that we be neutral, accept, condone or embrace the evil around us. We Christians should not let the enemy beat us down into silence with this argument.
Second, tolerance is not an absolute virtue. It has its limits. For anyone will admit that he is intolerant of certain things and that in fact we ought to be intolerant of certain things. For example, those who call Christians intolerant because we oppose homosexuality and abortion on demand and pornography are the same people who are so intolerant of things like rape and sexual harassment and racism and child abuse and environmental pollution. It is not a crime to be intolerant. Tolerance is not inherently good nor is intolerance inherently evil. In fact, tolerance of the wrong things is a great evil and intolerance of certain things is a great good. All people are intolerant, all people discriminate against certain things.
Third, the Bible uses the word hate to describe the proper attitude toward all forms of evil. "The Lord detests the way of the wicked." (Pr.15:9).
Jesus is said to hate wickedness. (Heb.1:9). The Bible also tells us to hate what is evil. (Rm.12:9). To fear the Lord is to hate evil. (Pr.8:13).
Christians are more and more called "hate mongers" not because we hate the sinner but merely because we hate the sin and speak out against the sin. Well, what's wrong with hating what is evil, with hating what is bad, with hating what is wrong? Are we supposed to love and embrace what is evil? If we love the sinner, let us not be shamed or embarrassed about hating the sin. America's most banned book still says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil."
Living in any social environment requires that we exercise a certain amount of tolerance for differences that exist among us, even certain tolerances for differing moral standards. None of this means that we are required to accept, embrace, be neutral or even be silent about what we perceive to be evil.
None of this means that it is wrong to be intolerant of certain moral evils. None of this means that we are wrong to love what is good and to express hate for what is evil.