Tolerance. It's a word forced on us from our culture, our neighbors, our co-workers, classmates and friends. But, honestly, I don't think those who preach it live by it. When someone calls you intolerant, in all honesty, they are the ones who are guilty of not tolerating you. It's easy to label someone without looking at ourselves and holding ourselves to the same expectation and standard that we seek. That's the trouble with tolerance.
But I dare to challenge us further than tolerance. I dare to point us to love.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, breaks down how love really is the greatest. Sure, it's easy to demand tolerance for ourselves and just as easy to dismiss the other person's point of view if they don't align with ours. That's not tolerance, that's selfishness. But love does not seek to be affirmed. It doesn't demand or push away or dismiss or belittle. Love is ... well, let's look at what it is, together.
Love is Patient and Kind
Love isn't aggressive, short tempered or demand it’s own way. Love has no temper or irritation towards others who aren't relatable. Instead of rolling it's eyes or tapping it's foot, restlessly, love simply invites and sets the table of welcome and belonging. It doesn't care that life style or pasts aren't similar. It doesn't care about revenge. Love quietly waits for God to move in situations that seem difficult and impossible and it's deepest prayer is to grow more in grace and mercy. Does tolerance do that?
There are people in our lives that seem hopeless. They seem like they will never get themselves together. Their choices are disappointing, hurtful and confusing. In all honesty, we sometimes want to give up and walk away from them. But love never gives up ... on anyone. Love calls us to keep on loving even when it is difficult because God loves us this way. How can we receive from Him and then withhold the same gift from others? No. Tolerance has time constraints, but love never walks away.
Love Never Loses Faith
Our love for others becomes perfected as we delve deeper into the love of the Lord over us. Until we experience His love and invite Him in, we can not expect to love others the way He desires that we should. Unshakable love is produced by unshakable faith and such faith is only birthed through a relationship with Jesus. Tolerance is self defined and self made. Love is God made, because God is love.
Love is Always Hopeful and Has No Fear
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first.”
1 John 4: 18-19
Amen, John! The worst arguments occur because one or both parties are afraid. Fear is an ugly fella'. It will blind you, rob you, fool you and ultimately, disqualify you from all the beauty God desires to produce in you. Fear keeps you from faith. Fear is always anxious that someone is a threat, a danger or a competition. It's insecure and unhappy and, in my personal opinion, it is the driving force behind the tolerant movement. But love is perfected in Jesus and we can shame fear by simply loving like Christ.
God is eternal. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Since God is love and He resides in us, then our love must be eternal, as well. That means, our love for a specific individual does not have an expiration date. The words, "I'm done", should never come out of our mouths. I know it does, sometimes. I've certainly said it before. But let's be sure to speak intentionally and align our words with our hearts. Since God calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, our love for others should never run out.
I know it's hard at times, difficult and frustrating, but the God of the universe lives in you! There is nothing you can not do- including loving difficult people.
Love is not Jealous
Tolerance is only capable of celebrating itself: it's agenda, it's feelings, it's best interest. If something for someone comes along that does not or cannot align with Tolerance, then Tolerance becomes intolerant. Why? Because tolerance is one sided and self-seeking and whenever we are seeking after self, Jealousy is close by. Love is not jealous. It has no problem when someone is edified, celebrated, promoted or recognized. If we ever find ourselves intolerant of someone else's blessings or success, it's time to check our hearts and ask the Lord to renew our minds.
Love is not Boastful or Proud
When we love, we desire our good, as well as the good of others. We aren't boastful in what we have or what we've done, which could make other feel less than or belittled. No. Love is humble in all things and seeks to rejoice for others in all things. We are all dearly loved by God and no one is more important to Him than another. So we can celebrate one another, in full confidence, knowing that God's good gifts are for us all, even though they may manifest in different ways.
Love Keeps No Record of Wrong
Ok, my hands are raised up first! I have a hard time with this one. I may not verbally remind you, but I have a hard time with replaying hurtful scenarios in my mind, over and over again. Why? Because, it's so easy to think on the negative things. But scripture tells us to think on things above (Phil. 4:8). Why? Because what we dedicate our thoughts to will eventually be reflected in our lives and lifestyle. Not keeping records of the harm we've encountered is not synonymous with forgetting; rather it is the reflection of forgiveness. Love keeps no list because lists keep us captive to what has harmed us. Tolerance holds onto records because it seeks to be re-payed. Love insists to start over, gain an understanding and begin a new.
Love Doesn’t Demand it’s Own Way
Tolerance is intimidated by thoughts, decisions and perspectives that are independent of the majority's agenda. Listen, not everyone will agree with you. Not everyone will feel the same as you or understand you. So what then? Do we throw the person away? Do we break up with everyone who isn't our "Yes, man"?
Friends, that is immature and ungodly. There will be times when we disagree in a situation. Realize that the right you have to say, do and feel as you see fit, others have that exact same right. The question, then, shouldn't be, "Do they agree/disagree with me", but instead, "Are they agreeing/disagreeing with God"?
God's way should be our greatest desire, not our own.
Love is the Answer
In my life, there is a situation the Lord has me in that is continually teaching me that I have lots to learn when it
comes to loving like Him. I try so hard to love my difficult person. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes, I fail, miserably. But you know what, my heart wants to love like Jesus. My desire is to be loving and gentle and kind and merciful. Is that your desire, as well?
Good! Because, if we ever hope to love like Jesus, we have to be willing to deal with difficult people, like Jesus did. He loved perfectly amongst an imperfect people. He calls us to do the same.
Tolerance is a bandaid over a hurt that won't seem to heal. Love is the ointment that will bring the healing we truly need. It is the greatest. It is Jesus!
“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13: 13