Just a quick thought I wanted to share. I was writing about this in a comment (on my post from two years ago about Puritans and The Scarlet Letter), and I decided to share it here with everyone as well.
"Tolerance" is a word that is used a lot in conversations about religion. "The Puritans were intolerant of other beliefs." "Christians need to be more tolerant." "We need a religion that calls for global tolerance."
So, what is tolerance?
According to dictionary.com:
tol·er·ance [tol-er-uhns]noun1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
So, what does it mean to be "tolerant" of another religion or belief? As Christians, we need to be very careful with that word. Being respectful or loving toward another person is one thing; but treating that other person's religion or belief system as if it is just as true or correct as Christianity is another thing.
As Christians, we shouldn't "tolerate" sin and untruths, in a manner of speaking, but we still should love the people who are sinning, and who are living outside of the truth. In other words, being "intolerant" to sin isn't wrong... it's "intolerance" without love that's wrong.John 14:6"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' "
The sin isn't okay, but, alluding to what some Christians have done in the past, we're not going to hang or burn the other person because of their sin. It is because we love the other person so much that we might gently, lovingly persuade them to leave their sin, for their own good.
There is a big difference between "intolerance" with judgement (The Scarlet Letter, for an example), and a gentle "intolerance" that exists because we love someone! God never tolerates sin in the Bible, but he always does everything he can to convince people to come out of their sin, so they don't have to be judged.
Here are a few verses to ponder:
Jeremiah 31:3"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.' "Ezekial 18:23,32" 'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?' says the Lord GOD, 'and not that he should turn from his ways and live?... For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord GOD. 'Therefore turn and live!' "
Ezekial 33:11"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' "
Lamentations 3:31-36"For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. To crush under one's feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the justice due a man before the face of the Most High, or subvert a man in his cause-- the Lord does not approve."
Also, read Hosea 11, especially verse 8, which shows the heart of God when he has to bring judgment on someone:
"How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred."