We’re promoting tolerance because Jesus lived it. While His contemporaries didn’t want to have anything to do with tax-collectors and prostitutes, Jesus sat down and ate with them. It wasn’t that He agreed with their lifestyles or choices. He didn’t. But He wanted to talk to them and show God’s love to them.
Tolerance isn’t about agreeing with someone or throwing your principles away. By definition, it involves some form of disagreement or disapproval. But within that, it’s about deciding to tolerate difference. That’s what Christ did.
So we must show a measure of tolerance towards people of other faiths. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be evangelistic, but it does mean that we wouldn’t campaign for them to be made illegal, or for their places of worship to be torn down. It’s important to remember that forced conversion is no conversion at all. As evangelical Christians, we seek to win hearts and minds for Christ – not merely outward conformity.
So, if you have a neighbour who is different from you – a Muslim, a Hindu, a gay person, a transsexual – then invite them into your home. Get to know them. Sit down and eat with them. Build up a relationship with them. This is tolerance at work. It demonstrates that God cares for people.
In doing this, we’re not denying that we might disagree with their beliefs or lifestyles, but we are demonstrating the same kind of openness that Jesus lived out. We are living in the world, while not being of it. And in the process demonstrating that God calls all people to be part of His kingdom. Making a deliberate decision to share our lives with those who are different from us is precisely what God would have us do – and that is what tolerance is about.
Great words. I would only add, as I am sure Justin would, that we need to show the same measure of tolerance also to those who have no faith at all, who may even be militantly opposed to all faith. But of course these words are challenging to put into practice. It is easy to claim to love our neighbours, even if they are very different from us, but not as easy to invite them into our homes.