The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tolerance as "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own." The Gardens at Barry Road in Kansas City, Missouri, is a vibrant senior living community and welcomes visitors, staff and residents from all cultures, backgrounds and religions in an environment of tolerance. While the community provides faith-based assisted living, memory care and respite care services, God — through His Word in the Bible — provides guidance on how to exercise tolerance in this and all settings.
"Let your speech always be gracious, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Colossians 4:6 NASB)
When differences arise — and they will — God clearly instructs His followers to respond with grace. In its simplest form, grace is patience, understanding, forgiveness and tolerance. More specifically, it is compassion for another's differences that mimics the forgiveness each Christian is granted through Jesus.
The ability to rise above one's personal feelings and treat another with respect is the true measure of spiritual maturity. This is especially true in the face of someone who may be intolerant towards you. In that event, it can be doubly difficult to respond with grace. However, having a mindset of quiet prayer can bring peace in the face of this conflict.
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15 NASB).
Bitterness can take root in the hearts of those who allow the nastiness of the intolerant to penetrate their hearts. It's the easy response to the angry negativity of others and it takes true strength and effort to rise about that level of pettiness.
Keeping your focus on what God says about you can help.
God says you were made in His image (Genesis 1:27 NASB). With that being true, nothing that an intolerant person can say should matter. Holding to that knowledge makes it easier to forgive those who are intolerant towards you. In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, God says, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people."
"The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39 NASB)
In the scripture above, Jesus tells His disciples that loving others comes second only to loving the Lord. He does not say, "If they agree with you, are like you, come from the same area as you, etc." He then goes on to say, "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40 NASB) That means loving others is vitally important to God's plan.
Jesus stresses loving others, even sinners and persecutors, for a good reason. It's because of the message in 1 Peter 4:8 NASB, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." The love you give another through God's love for you is real and without hypocrisy. Love like that can often reach the coldest heart and may help those who oppose you to come around.
One of the most challenging times for a Christian to be tolerant is when faced with somebody who holds different beliefs. It is in these moments more than any other that God calls His children to be tolerant.