Tolerance or Love?

 Personal holiness or justice in our world?
If we have decided that “both” is the answer we believe, if we resolve to strive for both ideals, what do we do with those who disagree?

What do we do, for that matter, with anyone with whom we disagree?

We are exhorted by our leaders, our culture, to show tolerance to those around us. Everywhere I turn, I am pleaded with to be tolerant, to show tolerance to anyone who is different, anyone who thinks or behaves differently than I.

Is this what we who are Christ followers are called to be? Tolerant?

Is this really all that we can manage, all that we can aspire to do?

Tolerance is easy. It costs me nothing.

Tolerance shrugs its shoulders and walks away, leaving you to your own devices. Tolerance doesn’t care.

And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Matthew 22.39
Love is much harder.

Love affirms the reality of the other person, culture and way of life.

Love takes the trouble to get to know the other person and find out what makes them special.
Love wants what is best for that person or culture.

It was love that brought the world to oppose an apartheid regime in South Africa, not tolerance.

It was love that lead Martin Luther King to pursue civil rights, not tolerance.

It was love that drove William Wilberforce to lead the British parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade, not tolerance.

It was love that sent Jesus to the cross on our behalf, not tolerance.

Before November 6th and afterward, as I live my life in contact with people who are different than me, I will pray for strength to choose the harder way.

If I am to be Jesus to those around me, if I am to make a difference for Him in this world, I must choose love, not tolerance.

Love must confront Tolerance and insist, as it has always done, on a better way. ~ Tim Keller in Generous Justice
art credit: The Three Crosses etching by Rembrandt
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  1. …and the greatest of these is Love.

    Matthew 22:39 has been front and center as the answer to so many questions I’ve been asked each day.

    Thanks for the affirmation.

  2. God is Love. Which is a hard concept to grasp. this attribute is the core of His being. However, many are able to say that they understand this centrality of love but often disagree about what love in action looks like. Those who believe in tough love (“Tell it like it is!”) think that those with a more relational approach (“God calls me to be love to this person and if at some point that love becomes so attractive that they want Him, then we can talk about what that means.”) believe in tolerance rather than love. Not true, as I fall into the second category. I believe in free will, of which personal autonomy is a natural extension. When I impose my perspective on those who have not chosen the perspective for themselves, I have infringed upon something God gave them, which I will not do. This for me has been ‘where the rubber meets the road’ on this issue. MLK, Jr was not motivated by tolerance but as you wrote, Love was his driving force. But look how it was expressed: nonviolent protests, sit-ins, peaceful marches; all essentially structured to move the majority culture folks to see the minority as human beings, deserving of equal rights under God. A bit of a ramble but I enjoyed the post. thanks.

    • It is a difficult thing to trust God to do His own work sometimes! I think that pride and selfishness often masquerades as love when people want to convert others into someone like themselves rather than allowing God’s Spirit to do the work as we simply live and love like God.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this!

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