Sunday, October 9, 2011
We are told that what the world needs is more tolerance. We, as a people, are encouraged to tolerate people’s differences, tolerate the choices of others, whatever they may be, tolerate new ideas of good vs. evil (ideas which change and vary from one person to another). Tolerance, it seems, has become synonymous with acceptance, and acceptance, synonymous with peace. Tolerance is held up as the ultimate expression of morality.
But, no matter what “the world” wants to believe or to preach, tolerance is not synonymous with love. To tolerate means to withstand the unpleasant effects of something, or to be willing to allow something to happen or exist. It has come to mean further, to recognize other people's right to have different beliefs or practices without attempting to suppress them. Whatever definition you prefer, tolerance is dealing with something, living with something, but it is not the same as embracing something, or for that matter, someone.
Jesus loved but He did not tolerate. He loved all people, called all people closer to Himself, reached out to all people, but never once did He tolerate. He went way beyond acceptance of each person He encountered, He loved them. He loved them right where they were, and just as they were, but He never let them stay there. He called them all to something more, something better. He called them away from their sinful ways and mediocre existences. He pointed out their areas of weakness, of misunderstanding, of sinfulness. He told them to rise above it, to turn to God and live a better life.
Jesus would never have tolerated, nor preached a gospel of tolerance. Because tolerance, especially in today’s definition of it means allowing, even encouraging, sinfulness. It means leaving each other alone to do right or wrong (most often wrong it seems to me) without ever trying to help anyone to do what God wants of them. Tolerance is not about helping others to heaven, or even helping others to happiness. It is about leaving others to wallow in their weak, sinful ways without helping, without loving.
I think Jesus would be incredibly disappointed in a society that stops at a level of tolerance, that does not strive for so much more. True love never stops at mere acceptance. Tolerance is such a cop out in many ways.
We are called to love and love means wanting what is best for others. It means we must never tolerate the sins of others, sins that hurt and affect us all. We must do all we can to lead our friends, family members, neighbors, and even strangers, if we can, to a life that rejects sin, not a life that celebrates it. Jesus teaches us to love the sinner and hate the sin. Our worlds seems to ignore the sinner and embrace the sin. If that is tolerance, then tolerance is selfishness.
I would never allow my children to simply tolerate each other. In our home, we strive each and every day to love one another. It is not always easy. There are all those little annoyances, all those petty disagreements, all those opportunities to criticize and tease and stir up trouble. Maybe if my children could just tolerate each other things would be quieter at my house. But quiet can be quite overrated. Quiet is not the goal.
Simple tolerance is not an option. I expect love. I want a family full of love. Love, kindness, joy, and true feelings of gratitude for one another. I am hoping for, praying for, real Christ-centered love that manifests itself in an enduring desire to help each other to a place of growth in holiness and virtue in my home.... and in the world around it.