We (Americans, at least) tend to go through phases – not only what’s in or out, but what is acceptable and unacceptable. In our recent history, one of these things has been tolerance.
Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
Christian culture has told us to be tolerant of those that are different than we are (sexual orientation, religious beliefs, even cultural differences).
Today, as I was doing some yard work, I was thinking about this… I thought about what it meant to be loving and to be loved. I thought about how drastically different it is to tolerate or to be tolerated. Now, as a straight, white man, I don’t have a lot of these biases working against me in the society in which I live. Most of the people that tolerate me, tolerate my theological, political, or geeky differences.
I don’t want to be tolerated.
I want to be loved and accepted for who I am.
I think that’s what most people want.
As a Christian, can I really say, “Jesus loves you, but I tolerate you,” and not sound like a total D-bag? It is Jesus’ mandate that we show the love and grace to others that He showed us. Right now, where they are, love them. Accept them. Give them grace.
For real, let’s stop playing the which-sin-is-worse game to figure out who we should treat one way and who gets less than our best — that’s not even biblical! (Neither is qualifying someone for love.)
I get it… You’ve heard it said from the pulpit, “[that sin] will land you in hell!” I’m not going into all of that right now, but I will say, regardless of your religious beliefs, someone’s sin(s) should not dictate how you treat them. Jesus didn’t say, “Love your enemies, but protest gay bars, strip clubs, and military funerals.”
Tolerance is not an act of love. It is a form of appeasement, maybe even manipulation. It’s trying to be pleasant around people you wish you were not around or wish that they were not the way they are (so that you could love them).
Love wants to be around others. Love wants to be compassionate. Love wants to go the extra mile for whoever needs it. I’m not sure I can say it better than Paul did, so I will leave you with his definition of love:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong, but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits.