Tolerance: willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own (quoted from Webster’s online “Simple Definition of Tolerance”)

Apparently, Webster’s Dictionary hasn’t gotten the memo that times have changed. “Tolerance” used to mean that you and I could disagree about something and still be friends.

But no longer.

Under the new definition of “tolerance,” all ideas are equal because we no longer agree on a standard of truth (i.e. the Word of God) by which to judge all ideas. Everyone is their own judge now. “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” That reminds me of something I read somewhere …“In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

Because we have no common standard by which to judge ideas, and all ideas must be equal, the only place for judgment to fall is upon the person who holds the idea. Thus, today’s version of “tolerance” means I must approve of—and even celebrate—what you believe in order to affirm you as a person. And if I disagree with you or refuse to celebrate what you believe in—no matter how graciously I treat you—it’s culturally acceptable for you to label me a bigot and publicly humiliate me. How…um…intolerant.

But disagreement is not denigration. By definition, we cannot truly “tolerate” someone unless we disagree with them in some way. True tolerance means I disagree with you, but I still choose to love and respect you as a fellow human being made in the image of God. For a great book on the subject, check out D.A. Carson’s The Intolerance of Tolerance.

My next post will address how to engage in conversation with someone who accuses you of being intolerant.