Barnabas Network International | Online Resources for Churches


Is Tolerance Always A Virtue?  


Advocates of tolerance are convinced that our society would be a better place if we all embraced this "goddess" called tolerance.   My dictionary defines tolerance as "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own".  


Tolerance is strongly promoted today as a virtue that is beyond suspicion or criticism. We are told that to be a tolerant person is a mark of maturity. I'm sure that in many cases that is true. There are forms of intolerance that are abhorrent to any caring, civilized society.  


But, as is often the case, many of our attempts to correct that which is wrong become over-corrections and we go too far in the opposite direction. We begin to tolerate activities, values, and practices that have within them the seeds of destruction.   Despite protests to the contrary, tolerance and love are not always to be equated.  


Tolerance says; "You must approve of what I do" while love says; "I will love you even when I must challenge your behaviour".   Tolerance says; "You must agree with me at all times" whereas love says; "I will speak to you lovingly and truthfully because truth sets us free".  


Tolerance says; "You must allow me to have my way" but love says; "I will plead with you to follow the right way because I believe you are worth the risk".   Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive but love will take risks. Tolerance glorifies division whereas love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing (in the short term) but love costs everything.  


Abraham Lincoln once stood in a slave market and got good and angry as he watched the trade in human life. He decided then and there that this practice must not be tolerated. He would do something to stop it. The point? The point is that there are times when tolerance is wrong and intolerance is right.   Sometimes tolerance is simply another word for gutless.


There are forms of tolerance in our society that cannot be called a virtue. They are more like a vice that undermines courage, conviction and the kind of action that would benefit our community.    

Download free ministry resources.
give us your feedback.