The word "tolerate" is used 4 times in the New American Standard Bible and all four times it is used in a negative light:
2 Corinthians 11:19 For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. (This is said sarcastically)
2 Corinthians 11:20 For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.
Revelation 2:2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;
Revelation 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
God in his word condemns those who think they are being wise, kind, and evening loving by accepting sinful and false teaching in their midst. He commends those who do not tolerate evil. Many in our culture talk all the time about tolerance but what they mean is exactly the thing that God condemns. But there is one time in scripture that the word "tolerance" is used in a positive light:
Ephesians 4:1-3 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The KJV does not use the word "tolerance" but instead uses the word "forbearing." Matthew Henry says this about this passage:
Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these. The best Christians have need to bear one with another, and to make the best one of another, to provoke one another's graces and not their passions. We find much in ourselves which it is hard to forgive ourselves; and therefore we must not think it much if we find that in others which we think hard to forgive them, and yet we must forgive them as we forgive ourselves.
We might call this forbearance true Christian tolerance. This is a love that is displayed in humility and gentleness and patience. This love overlooks the ways we can be tempted to take offense. We live in a world where everyone is looking to be offended at all times. To be offended is to be made a victim and to be a victim is to be powerful. We are especially offended if someone disagrees with us. True Christian love for our brothers and sisters however will not stop loving them even when they dare to disagree with us. Now as was shown in the beginning, this is not a tolerating of evil. Christians rightfully stand opposed to evil. We rightfully correct and even rebuke each other when we fall into sin. But Christian tolerance between brothers will overlook quirks of personalities or things that may cause offense. Christian tolerance won’t nitpick each other to death but realize that every one of us is on a path of sanctification.
True Christian tolerance will involve brothers being able to disagree and disagree vehemently. It means being able to argue even passionately with a brother over truth and at the end of the day still maintain love. The example of this is two young boys getting in a fist fight and then after getting up off the ground and dusting themselves off, they go fishing together.
Our world doesn’t know this Christian tolerance. For them tolerance means we must accept all beliefs as valid. We must ignore the fact that there is truth and accept all truths as valid. Worldly tolerance is not about love in the face of real disagreement. It won’t tolerate real disagreement. Worldly tolerance will tolerate evil but not a battle for truth. That’s why some of the most intolerant people are constantly talking about tolerance.
Christian forbearance though is between brothers and sisters in Christ. It doesn’t sugarcoat real disagreement. It doesn’t make truth relative. It doesn’t affirm that all positions are equally valid. Nor does it tolerate evil. Instead it is love, the kind of love where two brothers can fight it out and still consider each other family. It will not nitpick to death but allow love to cover a multitude of sins. But it also won't stand by idly and let a brother go down a path of destruction. It will correct, reprove, and rebuke with the word of God.
Will you tolerate your brothers enough to fight for the truth with love in humility, gentleness and patience? Will you tolerate your brothers enough to patiently bear with things that you could take offense at? Or will you be like the world and when the going gets tough, quit and take your ball home. The Apostle Paul says this is work to be done with diligence so that the unity of the church will be preserved.
Sunday 10:30 AM