Acceptance vs. Tolerance
The Golden Rule, which Matthew 7:12 is called, is a concept that was native to Judaism and has been a part of every major religion in some form or another. A Roman philosopher named Seneca (4 BC- 65 AD) stated it this way:
"Let us show our generosity in the same manner that we would wish to have it bestowed on us" (De beneficiis 2.1.1)
The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC) said something very similar:
"Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you!" (Analects 15:23)
This is a beautiful verse and something that every Christian can live by. It's common today to see bumper stickers on people's cars that so "Coexist." The letters, made up of symbols of different faiths, imply that we of different faiths should live in harmony. This is a positive thing, but is it acceptance or tolerance? Have we taken it to an extreme that has hurt Christianity?
Acceptance is when we receive something, or join into something, like a group, cause, or mindset. Tolerance, on the other hand, is the willingness to deal with opinions that one does not agree with. In America over the past 100 years, Christians have had to become tolerant that is for sure, but have we transitioned into acceptance of those who don't share our faith?
Here are some questions for you to consider when thinking about the Golden Rule in our context today:
- With the Golden Rule in mind, should I be acceptant or tolerant?
- Does it hurt our Christian witness to be acceptant of non-Christians? Why or why not?
- How can I love others as I want to be loved that are different from me?
- Is there someone of a different faith or culture that I can get coffee or lunch with this week just to learn more about?
- What is something God is showing me about this passage this week?