Daily Encouragement Net
“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).
"Tolerance & Diversity"
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
Tolerance is a great old word that essentially conveys the capacity to endure pain or hardship. As a Christian virtue it has been described as the ability to respond to the immaturity of others without accepting their standard of immaturity. It's also learning to accept others and their unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of development.
However it's meaning has broadened and it has become the new 'most sought after' virtue. Politically, both major parties seem to compete for the title "most tolerant". Sadly among the issues being "tolerated" are major moral matters such as sexual immorality and abortion. The age of tolerance has given us a new style of political rhetoric which goes something like this: "I'm personally opposed to abortion but respect a woman's right to choose". Where would we be if Abraham Lincoln's position had been similar: "I'm personally opposed to slavery but respect a slave owner’s right to choose". (Which actually was the position of his political rival Stephen Douglas). May God truly help those who serve in government to be men and women of principle!
In religious circles, the rallying cry of modernism and liberalism is "unity at any cost". Fundamental doctrines are being ignored in pursuit of tolerance and unity. Sadly even the Evangelical and conservative church has not escaped this tolerance mentality.
Another word related to this, which has also taken on a new, broader meaning, is diversity. This word, which is used in the KJV version of the Bible to describe the different kinds of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4) and the variety in the created order (Leviticus 19:19), has now been broadened to describe inclusion of views and behavior which is absolutely unscriptural. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul affirming the Corinthian church for their diversity in his first letter to them when in chapter 5 he sternly rebuked them for failing to deal with a man living in immorality? (No, he said place the man out of the church.) In chapter 6 can you imagine him listing the works of the flesh and then congratulating them for having a church of such diversity! (No, in fact he said they would not inherit the kingdom of God.)
It's interesting to examine what the Word of God says about this matter of tolerance in this new broad meaning. Among the qualifications for church leaders Paul writes, "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). The trustworthy message and sound doctrine are not to be trifled with. Holding firmly to sound Biblical doctrine and standards of morality is absolutely essential. Qualifications for church leadership stipulated both sound doctrine and sound character. Today as we confront this "be tolerant" viewpoint we must be on our guard that we do not forsake either.
A powerful verse dealing with this matter is in Jude 3: "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 1:3). I prefer the gravity (and for me familiarity) of the KJV rendering of this verse: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
The word "diligence" translates the Greek "spoude" which connotes the urgency of importance regarding a matter. The word "earnestly contend" is the Greek "epagonizomai" which is found in the NT only here as a compound word. The root is agonizomai (from which we get the English "agonize"). It means to "fight, labor fervently or strive". A final phrase of great significance in Jude 3 is "once delivered" which translates the Greek "hapax paradidomi". "Hapax" is translated "once for all" in the NIV and indicates "what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Note the use of this word in Hebrews 9:26,27,28 and 1 Peter 3:18. "Paradidomi" conveys entrust or commit. Jude was urging his readers to diligently hold onto and contend for the essential elements of the faith. I believe to those that have ears to hear he is doing the same today.
Jesus in His words to the seven churches of Asia wrote to the church of Thyatira this stunning rebuke: "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:20). Bad teaching led to bad living and sadly it was being tolerated. Perhaps the church had a distorted view of grace or love and they felt that "being tolerant" was a virtue. In fact at the heart of the "be tolerant" view is a distortion of God's grace and love. These attributes of God are indescribably wonderful but they must never be an excuse for tolerating error or sin. Although Bible students may not know for certain who Jezebel was or the exact nature of her teaching it is clear it resulted in rotten fruit.
However, earlier in the chapter we read of our Lord's commendation of the church in Ephesus: "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary" (Revelation 2:2,3). I pray that the Lord will give us a like-minded attitude. May God help us to faithfully stand against all unbiblical teaching and practice!
If tolerance is considered a questionable virtue then surely intolerance is good and to be desired. Not necessarily! Actually we have an example of semantics here. Tolerance (a perfectly good word) has come to connote a poor character trait. Intolerance has generally been used to correctly describe a poor character trait. Although we should not tolerate error or compromise in matters of cardinal doctrine and Biblically proscribed behavior, I believe the Word calls us to practice tolerance in matters of personal opinion and tastes. However instead of using this word we will use a word the Scripture uses, "forbearing" (KJV) or "bearing with" (NIV) and I deal with this matter in another perspective on bearing with one another..
Stephen C. Weber