7: Forbearance & Toleration
Toleration has two elements: to disagree with another’s conduct, and yet to be prepared to permit rather than to prohibit it.
For instance, before 1689, it was illegal for non-Anglican ministers to preach in public. When the Toleration Act was passed, it meant that, although men like Bunyan were thenceforth allowed to preach, they were not necessarily approved of. Therefore toleration says: “I disagree with you, but I will not interfere with what you are doing.” In short: “I will put up with you!” What about forbearance?
Although forbearance has something in common with toleration, it also contains a distinctively Christian element. “Forbearance” means to exercise restraint and to hold back, and its motive may have a merciful purpose, such as Charles Wesley demonstrated in: –
“Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear?
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?”
Of course, forbearance has its limits. When Peter and John were commanded to keep quiet about Christ Jesus, they replied: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”* It was here, maybe, where the two words met. To keep quiet would be intolerable. Therefore they would not forbear to speak.
Read about forbearance in Proverbs 24:11 & 12 and
in Colossians 3:12-14