How tolerant should we be, if at all?

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What exactly is tolerance? Is tolerance a Biblical principle and if so, how are we to apply it in our lives? How tolerant should we as believers be? What can be tolerated and what not? These are all questions we are confronted with when we consider this theme. I have come to believe that the modern version of tolerance is a deception. This deception could not only prevent people from hearing the truth, but also encourage them to continue in sin. Instead of me giving you my opinion, let us see how our Heavenly Father sees tolerance. This article was written for and published in Harvestmag, the online magazine for young people. They have posted many articles on this topic, you can read more HERE!

What is tolerance?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines tolerance as:

  • capacity to endure pain or hardship
  • sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
  • the act of allowing something
  • the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure [1]

This definition is not from a Biblical perspective, although some biblical principles can be found in it.

The Louw, Nida Greek-English Lexicon provides us with a Biblical definition of the word tolerance. This Lexicon derives its definition of the word from a purely Biblical context. The definition can be summarized as:

  • to be patient with, in the sense of enduring possible difficulty—‘to be patient with,
  • Eph 4:2.
  •  Rom 2:4.
  • pertaining to what can be borne or endured
  • Mt 11:22
  • Acts 13:18.
  • capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances—‘endurance,.
  • 1 Th 1:3.
  • to continue to bear up despite difficulty and suffering
  • 2 Tm 2:10.
  •  2 Tm 3:11.
  •  to put up with annoyance or difficulty—‘to put up with, to endure.’
  • 1 Cor 9:12;
  • 1 Th 3:5.
  •  Rom 9:22.
  • to continue to bear up under unusually trying circumstances and difficulties—‘to endure, to bear up under
  • Acts 15:10.
  • to continue to persist in any undertaking or state—‘to persevere,
  • Heb 11:27.[2]

The essence of tolerance from a Biblical perspective is patience, endurance and perseverance. However, to tolerate tolerance_smallaccording to our modern definition, is also to allow, and to indulge practices different from, even conflicting with our own beliefs. However, what struck me about the secular definition of tolerance is that it is described as the increase in unresponsiveness with repeated exposure. It is the same when we are exposed to evil; we develop a tolerance for it, and we start to compromise. We learn from Scripture, that we are not to tolerate evil, but even to hate it.

Do not tolerate evil

We found two references of tolerance in the book of Revelation. Firstly, the assembly of Ephesus is admonished for not tolerating evil and secondly, we find the assembly of Thyatira criticized for tolerating Jezebel who was and still is the impersonation of evil.

Revelation 2:2
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;

In order to gain understanding, we need to define evil in the Biblical sense. The Greek word translated as evil is “kakos” and means the following:

88.106 κακόςa, ή, όν; κακῶςa: pertaining to being bad, with the implication of harmful and damaging—‘bad, evil, harmful, harshly.’[3]

Psalm 97:10
10 Hate evil, you who love YHVH, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

The Hebrew word “ra” is used here and is translated as “evil”. The definition according to the Dictionary of Biblical languages defines it as follows:

8273 I. רַע (rǎʿ): adj; bad, evil, wicked, no good, i.e., pertaining to that which is not morally pure or good according to a proper standard, implying this evil hinders or severs a relationship to a person or principle which is proper;[4]

What is this proper standard mentioned in the definition? It is the Torah, YHVH’s Word. Anybody or anything that might have been harmful or damaging, or who did not live according to the proper standard, was not tolerated. When we continue reading, we understand why…

Tolerance leads to compromise

The assembly of Thyatira tolerated the woman Jezebel and everything she represented.

Revelation 2:20
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.

As you know, this Jezebel is not referring to King Agab’s wife, but to any person who impersonates her in any way. Her modus operandi can be described as follows: She first gains credibility by calling herself a prophetess. Secondly, she teaches and leads them astray with her instruction. Then they commit immorality and finally fall into idolatry.

Should such a person be tolerated? This sounds very much like spiritual adultery. She must have imparted some truth, for they listened to her teachings. She used this truth to lure people in, and then led them astray with the falsehood she mixed in. In other words: what she teaches, will lead to compromise, which will lead to sin, and we know sin results in death! She and her followers will have the same end.

Revelation 2:21–23
21 ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22 ‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23 ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

This is a picture of how we can become deceived by false doctrine.

Do not tolerate false doctrine

False doctrine is that which leads people astray and should not be tolerated. We find another example of in the Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul’s biting sarcasm is obvious when he wrote here how they were led astray because of tolerating false doctrine. False doctrine is another form of evil; it is not according to YHVH’s word, but man’s interpretation of it.

2 Corinthians 11:3–4
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Messiah. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Y’shua whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

The Bible knowledge commentary gives us some explanation:

11:2-4. while they may have thought otherwise, they were in peril. The tragedy of Eden was ominously close to reenactment. As Christ was elsewhere compared with Adam (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45), Paul here compared the church in Corinth to Eve. Instead of resisting (cf. James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9) the devil’s inducement to disobedience Eve listened and succumbed (Gen. 3:1-6). The serpent enticed her by his cunning (panourgia, “trickery”; cf. 2 Cor. 4:2). The devil’s representatives in Corinth (11:13-15) were also seductive. They should have been spurned (cf. 6:14-15) but instead were tolerated (11:4). [5]

We have learned from the Scripture not to tolerate evil or false doctrine, but how do we apply this in our lives?

How are we to apply this to our lives?

What would be examples of evil in our time? Evil, according to a Biblical context is anything contrary to YHVH’s Word. That will include all the sins that are being popularized by modern culture. This starts in school where children are taught to respect all religions and lifestyles. They are not taught what is acceptable according to Scripture and that is the problem. They grow up not knowing the truth. Young people, like yourselves, are being confronted with immorality, not in accordance to YHVH’s standard. These are all held up as if it is normal and good under the banner of tolerance. Contrary to this, making people aware of sin is demonized, it is called evil. Sin is not called sin anymore, but choice. Evil is being called good and good evil.

Isaiah 5:20
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Here is an anecdote from my life as an illustration of how not showing tolerance in the modern sense of the word has helped me. When I was still an unbeliever, I was very interested in New Age. I had a friend who was a believer, and I used to tell her about all the occult things I found so interesting. She never contented with me, but only said that it was wrong, and that she strongly disagreed with it. It made me question what I was involved with and eventually played a part in me becoming a believer. If she tolerated my wrong beliefs, even encouraged me, I might have continued in it…

We have also learned that we are not to tolerate false doctrine. Have you noticed how New Age and other occult practices have infiltrated the faith? This is compromise! We cannot mix pagan beliefs with our belief in YHVH. We are to search for the truth and not take anything we hear at face value. We are to expose evil for the sake of ourselves and other believers. Those who are teaching falsehoods, are not even aware that what they are instructing is wrong. Do them a favor and tell them, but do it in love. Do it in the way you would like someone to correct you, if you were wrong. Paul said it well in Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:1–3
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Master, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I will leave you with the following verse to ponder…How do you understand this? Please share your view with us in the comments section. We would love to hear what you have to say.

2 Corinthians 6:14–17
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of Elohim with idols? For we are the temple of the living Elohim; just as Elohim said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says YHVH. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you.


  1. Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
  2. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (307). New York: United Bible Societies.
  3. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (753). New York: United Bible Societies.
  4. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  5. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (2 Co 11:2–4). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.




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6 responses to “How tolerant should we be, if at all?”

  1. Thank you for this simple article, I would love to see more teaching on 2 Cor. 6:14-17. I still struggle with how do we be separate yet shine our light for all to see.

    1. Schalk Klee

      Shalom, thanks for your comment. It is a very important topic and we might do some study on that in future. Thanks

  2. It was a really good post, by the way. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. I’m not very “tolerant,” I guess. :-)

    As we turn to Torah, many of our friends feel that this is all we want to talk about, and they don’t really enjoy being around us. Even if we speak with love and graciousness, our words are convicting. They ask us to please stop talking about it, but yet we are to be “watchmen on the wall,” so to speak. Oh, it’s hard to figure out when to speak and when to be quiet!

    Others fear that we have lost our salvation, that we are trusting in works for salvation, etc., because we desire to be obedient. So now they are struggling with whether they should be “tolerant” of OUR beliefs.

    1. Gina

      I agree wholeheartedly! It’s difficult. We want so much to share the truth that we are learning with people we love. It is so obvious sometimes, though, that they’d rather not hear about it. I, too, am finding that some family members not only don’t want to hear it but also think we are crazy to come back into “slavery” when they believe obedience to YHWH’s commandments is no longer necessary for believers today. We are losing family members and friends who, as you said, don]t want to be “tolerant” of our new beliefs!! It’s good to know we’re not alone. Thanks for your post, Anne. And thank you for the article, Schalk and Elsa.

  3. I also want to ask a question, Schalk and Elsa. I have an aunt who is homosexual. Before I came into Torah, I really had no problem with this, as I was VERY tolerant. Now, I can’t help thinking of her behavior as an abomination to Yah. I haven’t seen her for a long time but there is the possibility that she may be coming to visit soon from another state where she lives.

    Can you give any advice on how to handle this, what to say, etc. I really want nothing more to do with her. I don’t want her in my house. I have no desire to talk to her. I feel we have nothing to say to each other. I no longer want to be tolerant of sin. How do I express this to her in a way that YHWH would find acceptable?

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Shalom Gina,
      I typed a reply and it disappeared :). Here it goes again. It is a good question and something most of us are dealing with. Based on our experience this is our view. We also have a family member who is gay. We still love him, but makes it very clear to him that we do not approve of his lifestyle. We pray that he would find YHVH and then we will be there for him. If we bash him with the Bible and reject him, he may never be attracted to the truth.

      If you look up the word abomination in Scripture, you will find that eating unclean food is also an abomination, yet people who eat unclean are not shunned by believers. It is a sin to eat unclean, just as it is a sin to be homosexual. We make sure people know we don’t eat unclean and will not allow unclean food in our home. However, if we have a gathering and everybody brings food, we make sure that they understand this and if they make a mistake, we don’t embarrass them, but take them aside and tell them.

      Maybe, we ought to look at it from this point of view also, not tolerate the sin, but love the person and maybe, who knows, he/she might find the right way and turn.

      I hope this helps, but remember to tell her in a loving way and set boundaries that you feel comfortable with. If you don’t want her in your home, get together in a public place. You will know what you feel comfortable with. Pray to YHVH for wisdom and council before you meet or talk to her.

      In summary, I would treat her the same as I would treat a Christian friend that still eats unclean. Here is some wisdom from Paul:

      Colossians 4:5–6
      5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

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