Teaching Kids Tolerance in an Intolerant World

How important is it for our children to learn tolerance?  Our kids are living in a society much different than the one in which most of us grew up. There are all sorts of conflicting world views circulating today, which blur the definition of what’s acceptable, truly right and unquestionably wrong.  We are surrounded by people who are of different faiths, political ideologies, and philosophies.  How do we co-exist in society with others who don’t share our beliefs?

Somehow the meaning of “tolerance” has morphed into the same thing as “acceptance”.  Actually, the definition of tolerance is: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.  It means “I may not agree with you, but what you believe still is of value.”

When Christians are called intolerant, many times it’s because we refuse to accept certain things that society has deemed “okay,” like homosexuality, gay-marriage, abortion, or even alternative roads to everlasting life. Since being tolerant means giving everyone freedom to express their beliefs, there are a lot of times WE are the ones who face intolerance.

Was Jesus tolerant?

Yes and no. If you recall the Gospels, Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin. He befriended those who society called “outcasts” because of their previous lifestyles. But Jesus hated sin. He called people out on their sin to follow Him, but in a way that didn’t permeate hate. Instead He, the Son of God, showed mercy, forgiveness and love to the sinner. Jesus loved man but hated sin so much that He made it possible for those of us who are in living in depths of sin and who are not righteous with God (that would be ALL of us) to be forgiven.  We are made new, thanks to His grace…His mercy…His love…His ultimate sacrifice.

But how do we talk about tolerance to our kids?  They may hear and even be taught lessons from differing world views at school or in some of the groups in which they belong.  How do they practice what Jesus did… love everyone in spite of their beliefs, but don’t fall prey to so-called “alternative-truths”.  First, we must make sure that our children are rooted in God’s Word.  Jesus told us that He was “the Way, the Truth and the Life”…and “NO ONE can come to the Father unless it’s through Me”.  John 14:6

It’s okay to hear philosophies that we may not agree with. Take evolution, we know the truth. We were created by God,  in His image for a purpose and for relationship with Him.  We didn’t just happen. Does hearing someone’s idea that we came from amoeba or monkeys make God’s Word, the truth, any less true? Of course not.  That’s why it’s important to be firmly rooted in God’s Word. One day our children will hopefully be able to discuss why they believe what they believe… but hopefully do so in a way that isn’t as divisive and angry as it is lovingly compelling. Jesus had that way of calling a person out on their sin, and somehow reaching that very deepest part of their heart that longed for change.  Granted, He was God, but I think His is the example we strive to live.

Mercy is something that is hugely important to teach our kids.  Because a Christian who is self-righteous and who lacks mercy, even though he is stating what God’s Word says, is going to trip up a brother who may actually be on the way to accepting Jesus as his savior! We must be kind in how we say what we say.  Watch our tongues, even in speaking the truth! Always being the extending arms of Jesus, and remembering the mercy that He showed the sinner before she was about to be stoned.

The world may know what we Christians are against, but perhaps it’s time to share with them what we are FOR.  Put down our poster signs of rage and anger for a few minutes.  Instead reach out to a hurting world in love and mercy.  Not in acceptance but in tolerance, then share with them the Good News.  We have been commissioned to do this.

About the Author: Lisa Strnad is a weekly contributing writer to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She works freelance in Christian Media, specializing in writing, promotions and marketing. Lisa lives with her husband and their two sons in Nashville, TN. Follow her personal blog: www.talkinglikeagirl.blogspot.com

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