How should we approach the divided, increasingly hostile polarization of our times? Unfortunately, we are not living in times marked by unity, tolerance, and love even though those are the virtues that are constantly espoused as ideal.
Sadly, the lip service we pay to unity, tolerance, and love is not translating into greater societal wholeness and progress. Today, tolerance does not mean, “I have my beliefs but I want to engage with you about your beliefs so we can either find truth together or at least stay in relationship while we disagree.” Rather, our current views on tolerance tend toward insisting that everyone agrees with us or else deeming them a heretic or an enemy.
We are called to a much better way of living, thinking, and processing. In 1 Peter 4:7 the Bible says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” The Greek word for “sober mind” refers to a shrewd, God-controlled way of thinking and processing that allows us to practice self-control or restraint. It allows us to conform more closely to the character and nature of Jesus Christ.
Sober-mindedness refers to a virtue that is able to identify truth on both extremities of an issue, while bringing the extremes together. Essentially, sober-mindedness advocates a radical middle or a third way, wherein opponents can disagree with and debate contrary perspectives while remaining in respectful relationships.
That is what true tolerance looks like. It looks like vigorous, honorable debate that sharpens one’s perspective and understanding. It looks like agreeing to relate in kindness and love even if you must walk in a different ideological direction.
It is fascinating to learn that the Greek word for sober-minded is the origin of our English word diaphragm. Opera singers learn how regulate their breath, and even their heartbeat, through their diaphragm. According to the Scriptures there is a way of sober-minded thinking and processing that regulates the flow of life on the inside of us, and we need that today. Overheated divisiveness will not win the day. We need clear-headed sober-minded people who are able to identify truth from different perspectives and bring it together, finding a higher, greater way to live.