Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tolerating tolerance (or not)

Mowgli and I have been having an ongoing conversation this week about tolerance. First, we tried to define it. In its most basic form, it means (we decided): "Even though I passionately disagree with you, I won't kill you or burn down your house." At first, we thought that was TOO basic until we realized that much of the world isn't even on board with even that much.

At one point, Mowgli asked, "So what does tolerance mean for a follower of Jesus?" and we added a few extras: the follower of Jesus says, "Even though I passionately disagree with you, I will not only refrain from killing you or burning down your house, I will also pray for your wellbeing and serve you with a sacrificial love."

But now, the plot thickens. If I disagree passionately with you out loud and on purpose, am I being intolerant and disrespectful? Even if I am also refraining from killing you and I am serving you in love? If I believe very strongly that you are WRONG and I express that opinion to your face and even oppose you politically, can I still be tolerant?

This is what is being discussed at our house this week.


Electric Monk said...

Very interesting. In lots of current discussions, it seems that "intolerance" and "disagreement" are defined the same. Clearly there must be a place where I can think you're wrong, but still respect your right to be wrong. Thus I tolerate you, but don't agree with you.

pb said...

If a component of tolerance is serving with love those with whom you strongly disagree,and caring about their wellbeing,doesn't that mandate being concerned enough about their eternal wellbeing to share Jesus with them in an open but nonconfrontational manner? (I know there must be a way to break this Pauline style response into more than one sentence, but I haven't had sufficient coffee to do so!)