In our society, many believe the highest virtue one can practice is tolerance. But, what is tolerance? The culture seems to define it as totally accepting and embracing a person, all their practices, and all their ideals.
Tolerance no longer means to peacefully coexist with someone you may disagree with, even if you are able to disagree in a respectful way. It is not “agreeing to disagree,” but rather it demands to be deemed correct, not as an opinion but as immutable fact. Tolerance demands to be, not one voice among many or even an equal voice, but THE voice with total unanimity of affirmation by all other voices. Anything less than this voice is intolerant, bigoted, hateful, and mean. Anything not tolerant should not and must not be tolerated according to the culture.
The problem with today’s tolerance is not that it calls us to a standard too high, but that it calls us to a standard far too low. It actually causes us to be arrogant, selfish, demanding, closed-minded, and intolerant. There is no room for compassion for those who may disagree, and no possibility for respectful relationships with those who do not embrace one’s own position. Tolerance today is actually the height of being self-focused. There is zero room for any differing opinion. It is “me-ism” on steroids, the absolute enthronement of myself and my opinion.
Tolerance is presented as a very high and noble ideal, and is said to be tantamount to love. In fact, however, tolerance is far less than love. Love is not self-focused but focused on others. Love is sacrificial, not demanding. Love will risk being misunderstood, even mistreated, for the sake of the good of another, even those who are doing the mistreating. Love will speak truth, even when unpopular. Love is unafraid to go against the tide of public opinion. Love will warn off danger even when the warnings are ignored and they risk rebuke for offering the warning. Love lives in a way that tolerance will not tolerate, because genuine love is not willing to tolerate anything and everything. Love will always stand against what stands against God and what destroys the soul. See the truth about love in these words from 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Tolerance is far, far less than love. Love is far, far greater than tolerance. We can and are called to do much better than tolerance. We are called to love. Let’s not be deceived by the cries of tolerance. Let’s make love our aim.