What Does the Bible Say About Tolerance? A Christian Study

by Crystal McDowell · Print Print · Email Email

The word “tolerance” has taken on many meanings today. Some believe tolerance means anything goes any which way the world desires. Others take tolerance to a level of intolerance towards anyone who may disagree with their point of view. But what do the scriptures teach us about tolerance? Gain a Biblical understanding with T-O-L-E-R-A-N-C-E:

T – Take advantage of every opportunity to be Christ-like

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19). 

Our lives aren’t governed by luck or chance, but rather by the will of God. The Lord allows our interaction and engagement with people who don’t believe in Jesus or who differ in their opinions about matters of the faith. The key to being Christ-like in these situations is to keep your eyes on Christ and not the person. You can have the mind of Christ when depending on the Holy Spirit for direction. For more study read Matthew 11:1-19.

O – Obey God and His word rather than men

Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29).

There will be times in a believer’s life when they will be tested for what they believe about God and the Bible. There are believers who refuse to deny Christ resulting in a risk to their lives, livelihood, and peace. There are rich blessings over those who choose God over men even though they lose out in earthly treasures. Christians must develop an intolerance to any behavior that would cause them to disobey God’s word. For more study read Acts 5:27-42.

L – Love others as yourself

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8). 

The most intolerant of individuals can recognize true and unconditional love from Christians. Loving those who are intolerant of the Christian faith empowers the believer to love just as Jesus did. The love from God is proactive and real without hypocrisy. Love overcomes a multitude of sins allowing the Lord to penetrate the hardest of hearts. For more study read 1 Corinthians 13. 

E – Expect there to be differences of opinions

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (Acts 15:39).

The Lord uniquely created each of us with our own personalities and preferences; therefore, we won’t always agree with one another. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t still love and respect each other in spite of our differences. Those who belong to the god of this world may never comprehend the views of Christians—and we must expect that because the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. For more study read Acts 15:36-41 and 2 Timothy 4:11).

R – Respect other’s values and opinions with grace

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

It’s possible with the help of the Holy Spirit to respect other’s opinions with grace. The ability to rise above personal feelings and treat someone with respect in spite of their intolerance reveals the true measure of spiritual maturity. The Spirit of God will always lead the believer towards graceful interaction with the intolerant. Having a mindset of prayer and quietness brings peace in the midst of differences. For more study read Daniel 4:19-37.

There is a balance in which we must be patient and tolerant towards people, but intolerant of sinfulness in our own hearts and around us.

There is a balance in which we must be patient and tolerant towards people, but intolerant of sinfulness in our own hearts and around us.

A – Acknowledge that you may suffer for what is right

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened” (1 Peter 3:14).

Being labeled “intolerant” for your Christian faith is a part of the journey. Suffering is expected when you stand up for what is right according to the word of God. The devil and the world will push you to recant your faith in a loving Father. However there’s blessing from heaven on the lives of those who stake their faith in Christ without wavering when mistreated. For more study read 2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10.

N – Never allow bitterness to take root in your heart

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15). 

Forgiveness is the tolerance that defines Christian behavior when dealing with those who are intolerant. Bitterness takes root when a believer allows the insults to penetrate their hearts instead of choosing to forgive. Keeping the focus on what God wants for your life will help you to more easily forgive the intolerant and increase your capacity to deal with them. For more study read Matthew 5:43-48 and 1 Thessalonians 5:15. 

C – Call upon God for wisdom and discernment

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Those who demonstrate true tolerance will seek God’s wisdom and discernment before speaking with people who disagree with them. The wisdom of God digs deeper than surface beliefs and may cause a person to reflect on righteous concepts. It’s wise to demonstrate in words and actions the tolerance or intolerance the Bible teaches. For more study read Daniel 1.

E – Express your opinion on controversial topics with careful consideration

“Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains’” (Acts 26:29). 

Believers reveal their tolerance for righteousness by how careful they express their opinions. Talking without thinking or praying causes many Christians to stumble in their response to those who are intolerant towards God and the Bible. Being slow to speak and quick to hear allows us the opportunity to fully understand how to address those who may be in opposition to the truth. For more study read Acts 26.

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The Christian faith is often misunderstood and we are labeled as “intolerant” to the ways of the world. This is expected as we are sojourners and ambassadors in the world. There is a balance in which we must be patient and tolerant towards people, but intolerant of sinfulness in our own hearts and around us. Always keep in mind that there are lost people needing to hear the truth about Jesus. May we become all things to all people in order that by our words and actions that many will come to know the Lord.

Related reading: Bible Verses About Tolerance

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits July 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Hi Crystal,

Great Article on an important topic. I started writing opinion pieces back in the late 80’s about our societies ever increasing intolerance in the name of tolerance. Mainly, as you pointed out it involved society’s ever increasing tolerance of all opinion as long as those opinions did not differ from their own.

I also understand your position on respect for others in the midst of our disagreement with them. I would suggest a definition on this point of “respect”. D. Bonhoeffer’s idea of respect was to join in an assassination attempt upon Hitler’s life. He reasoned that God was calling him in that direction. Have you read Mataxes recent biography of Bonhoeffer titled the same. Bonhoeffer did not survive his decision. He did not respect Hitler.

While being civil to the abortion and LGBT lobby and cadre which are sweeping our country I, who call myself a Christian am anything but respectful to their position or to them. Now, I am civil( I don’t yell, spit at them, or call them names), although they have done this to me.

I let them know in no uncertain terms that they are dead wrong, unnatural, contrary to nature and are destroying civilization as we have known it for over 200 years in our country and for 6,000 years since man and woman have existed. Now you know why they yell at me…;-)

So yes, I despise their beliefs. I try and ask God to help me love them and will share with them about Salvation, although this lobby knows already my position, and are pretty well decided upon their course.

It is the “others” I hope to influence who are watching and listening. So I remain civil, but I do not define this as you might be doing in your article. I think civil is what you call respect. Civil is what God requires of me. Respect is what others “earn”. Do you agree?

I “Do Not” expect you to respond to me as you never have and are the ghost writer here much like a few others on the site. I think you should respond though because , IMO, you are dead wrong! There is a challenge to wake your pen up. Now, to be clear, I respect you, for you have earned that through what I have read over the years from your articles. I do not respect the enemies of the Cross.

Blessings,

DocReits

Reply

Judebug July 16, 2014 at 10:21 pm

DocReits, you are expecting non Christians to act and think in godly terms and they cannot do that according to Romans 8:7 ” “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

God does not expect them to obey Him, for without the Spirit of Christ, they don’t have the ability to follow Him. They are at the mercy of their sin nature, therefore, follow after their desires and lusts.

Not so with those that belong to Christ. Romans 12:16-21 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

See DocReits, “overcome evil with good.” This is the Christlikeness that we are called to as followers of Christ. And that is what Crystal is saying in her article. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” We are to influence through our love!! Jesus won us with His love, not condemnation, and we are to win people by our love and not condemning them. Your disdain is to be toward sin, not sinners. We are to be Jesus with skin on in whatever corner of the world God places us.

Reply

DocReits July 17, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Hi Judebug,

I appreciate your kind reply and good Word you cited in contrasting good and evil. You are absolutely correct in what you said and quoted.

Do you recall Junebug how I suggested to Crystal that we should define the term “respect”? It is in my second paragraph. I think we should do that right now to help you understand my position:

“Re·spect

verb:
admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
“she was respected by everyone she worked with”
synonyms: esteem, admire, think highly of, have a high opinion of, hold in high regard, hold in (high) esteem, look up to, revere, reverence, honor ”

Now look in Crystal’s article under the “R” for respect. There she says,

“It is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit to respect other’s opinions with grace”. Remember the word “opinion” there Judebug.

Let’s revisit my comment to Crystal. I said we should treat others who differ with us in a civil manner, but that is much different than respecting their opinions. Do you understand the difference Judebug?

Let me make it clearer for us. I often speak with those who believe in abortion. I spoke about a month ago with a female patient of mine who believed not only in abortion through 9 months of pregnancy, but also that parents should have the option to kill their newborns during the first two years of life, after birth. “No kidding!”, your gasp right there and your unbelief is also what I was going through.

I spent some time in trying to rationally explain to her why her opinion was in error, to no avail. Now here is my point. I treated her in a very civil manner and we parted at the end of her exam, but I in no way could I say that I respected her opinion. Her opinion was a vile thing that came up like bile in my throat!

I despised, hated and loathed her opinion, let alone not respecting it. It was a heinous opinion! Now C’mon Judebug…Can you, in good Christian conscience agree with Crystal’s statement that I should have respected her opinion?(look back at the definition above again of “respect” before you answer). Before you try to defend Crystal, on this point, remember Christians are’t supposed to lie…;-)

I hope that helped you Judebug, with the reason for my reply to Crystal, over this oftentimes confusing idea of the Christian’s duties regarding behaving in a civil manner(which we are called to do) vs respecting other’s opinions.

Blessings,

DocReits

Reply

Judebug July 18, 2014 at 12:04 am

Ok, DocReits, I see what you are saying about their opinions. But, you have to admit that this person wanting to kill babies, up until they are 2, is no new thing. Look in the OT! Not only did they want to, but they did burn children alive on alters!

Those, without the Holy Spirit in them, can not reason Biblicaly and we should never expect a morale answer, or morale actions, from them. We should be shocked when they do give us a morale answer and not when they don’t.

So, yes, don’t respect their sinful opinion but use each and every opportunity to lead them to Truth, but not to argue their evilness to them. Remember, yu too were once caught in your evil sinful nature, but God in His mercy, granted you repentance and redemption. The Holy Spirit’s the only one who can bring conviction and He comes to us to convict, convince, and convert a person. We are to show them Christ, tell them about His love and truth that comes to free us from sin and death, then get out of the way and let God Humble them under His mighty hand.
Judebug

Reply

hilton schultze November 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

Helps me h my bible study.

Reply

Jack Wellman November 22, 2016 at 9:30 am

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