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 
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.
The essence of tolerance from a Biblical perspective is patience, endurance and perseverance. However, to tolerate according 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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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). 
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.
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:
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.
- Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
- 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.
- 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.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- 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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