It should go without saying that your friends, family, co-workers, or anyone you spend any time around should know you’re a Christian by how you live and carry yourself more than outright telling people. It could be as subtle as navigating away from and not participating in ungodly conversations at work or school or as evident as asking for time off on Sundays or inviting people to church. Jesus gave us this instruction on how we should live our lives.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (emphasis added).

Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

As Christians, we probably spend a lot of time around people who aren’t Christian outside of church gatherings. While it’s possible to always be surrounded by those who love Christ, that’s not been my experience. Although people know we are Christian, it can surprise and even put them off when situations arise that call for us to be outspoken about our beliefs. 

While reading Daniel, I encountered a situation that might be familiar to you today.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual (emphasis added).

Daniel 3:19 (NIV)

When Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol of gold and commanded everyone to bow down to it, he knew that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego followed the Lord. Everyone knew, as evidenced by this verse.

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:12 (NIV)

Yet, when Nebuchadnezzar set up that idol and commanded everyone to bow down to it, he didn’t expect anyone to disobey him. Even after he was told about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s disobedience, he clarified the matter with them.

 “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?” Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (emphasis added)

Daniel 3:14-15 (NIV)

Verse 19 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar’s “attitude towards them changed.” it didn’t matter to Nebuchadnezzar who these three men worshipped or what they believed in. Everything was fine between these men and the king until they stood by their convictions. This is what we can expect and may have already encountered in our Christian lives. This is where Biblical tolerance and world tolerance collide. 

It’s like Nebuchadnezzar, who was okay with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego following God until they chose to not compromise those beliefs. This reminds me of the dangers of worldly tolerance. 

Ever since I can remember, I’ve heard a message being preached in the world. The gospel of tolerance. There are several different definitions of tolerance, but I want to look at these two from Merriam-Webster:

  1. a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.
    b: the act of allowing something: TOLERATION

“The act of allowing something” is close to, but not strictly related to, this definition of “Tolerate” from Merriam-Webster. 

  1. b: to put up with.

Some people who know us and know that we’re Christians “put up with” our beliefs as long as they don’t interfere with them. If our views conflict, there can be a problem because we stand behind our convictions. 

I’ve heard it said that no one wants to be tolerated. An uncomfortable feeling comes about from knowing that you’re just being tolerated. I understand that, but what bothers me is that the world has gone from preaching a message of tolerance to a message of acceptance. There is a fine line between putting up with something and accepting it. Let’s turn, once again, to Merriam-Webster for clarity. Here’s the definition of “acceptance” that the world is preaching.

2: the act of accepting something or someone: the fact of being accepted: APPROVAL.

Tolerance and approval are not the same things. You see, I can accept someone for the choices they make and not approve of those choices. This is where I see a blend of tolerance and acceptance. Paul writes about this in Romans.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:32 (NIV)

This leads to the next step in the process of tolerance. Adoption. Merriam-Webster gives us this definition.

: the act of adopting: the state of being adopted

And defines “adopting” as such.

  1. to take by choice into a relationship especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one’s own child
  2. to take up and practice or use adopted a moderate tone
  3. to accept formally and put into effect, adopt a constitutional amendment.

As Christians, we are called to love God with everything in us and to love our neighbors as ourselves, while the writer of Hebrews gives us this encouragement. 

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (emphasis added).

Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

While we might strive to live in peace with everyone, we must also remain holy. In 1 Peter, we are given this instruction on how to live.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

Therefore, we are to show compassion to the people of this world who don’t know Christ. To Christians, tolerance means love, which goes beyond “just putting up with” other people. However, Biblical tolerance differs from worldly tolerance. Therefore, we must be on guard against falling into the trap of acceptance and adoption, which are the actual means behind the world’s message of tolerance.