I must be honest I wish churches wouldn’t preach tolerance. I wish we would stop talking about tolerating people. I wish we wouldn’t tolerate those who are different than us. All of this misses the mark. Jesus didn’t call us to tolerate people He called us to love them. As one preacher pointed out, can you imagine if I told my wife, “I tolerate you.” I would be sleeping on the couch for a week.
How unfortunate that we have reduced the call of Christ to tolerance. I don’t believe that Jesus tolerated anyone, even the Pharisees. He loved them and dare I say he even liked them. He wanted to be with people, all people, even the people whose attitudes infuriated him the most. It was for them, for you and me, that He lived and died. If it were for mere tolerance that Jesus came to Earth I doubt that He would die in my stead. You don’t die for people you tolerate; you die for people you love.
I appreciate Jesus’ declaration that the world will know His followers by the way they love one another. This goes just a step or so past tolerance doesn’t it? If we only tolerate people that we minister to or share the Gospel with then how miserable would eternity be when we are surrounded by people that we can only tolerate? However, if we learn to love them, I mean truly love them in a self-sacrificial, life-giving sort of way, then heaven will be glorious not only because we rest in the presence of God, but also because we are always surrounded by those we love and who love us.
Of course a more pleasant eternity isn’t our only motivation, nor our primary motivation. Imitating Christ is, or at least should be. If we imitate Christ then our attitude and life has to be one of loving service; one where we consider others better than ourselves, and I don’t think we consider others better than us if we are just trying to tolerate them.
Can you imagine John 3:16 saying “For God so tolerated the world…?” That would be terrible, but instead we are charged with the task of loving because He first loved us. So next time you hear someone talking about tolerance remind them that it is a dirty word.