Don’t Tolerate. Love!
In today’s world, tolerance is held up as the ultimate virtue.
However, in the words of Inigo Montoya, the Spaniard from “The Princess Bride,”
“You keep using that word. I’m not sure it means what you think it means.”
The fact is you can only tolerate something you don’t like or believe.
If you like it or believe it, you don’t have to tolerate it, because you can accept it.
If you disagree with someone, but are willing to let that person do, think or believe what they want anyway, you are practicing tolerance. But if you disagree with someone and insist that they change their actions, thoughts or beliefs to conform to yours, you are displaying intolerance.
However, what most people mean by the word “tolerance” today is “acceptance,” because if you disagree with someone’s point of view, or even if you are committed wholeheartedly to your own, you are counted intolerant.
For instance, if you were to tell a couple living out of wedlock that you thought that was wrong, you would likely be labeled intolerant, regardless of your willingness to let the couple live as they pleased. In reality, if you are willing to let them live that way, even though you object, you are actually exercising tolerance.
What would be intolerant is not only to believe that a certain behavior is acceptable, but to fight for legislation that would outlaw anyone believing differently from you.
The Superiority of Love over Tolerance
My wife has a close college friend who couldn’t be further away from us in matters of spirituality, morality and politics. (My wife has always been much better about getting along with different people than I have.) One time she had a dream about this particular friend in which she was discussing one of the many issues upon which they disagree. In the dream, Julie recalled her friend saying they needed to be tolerant of each other, but Julie told her…
“No! I don’t want to tolerate you. I want to love you.”
If your loved one is living contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture, you can’t really accept them the way they want you to accept them. You can accept them as a child of God (or as your mom or your friend or your brother), but you can only tolerate the immoral behavior.
Here’s the crux of the matter:
The world says that “tolerance” can unify our culture, but what the world really wants isn’t “tolerance,” but “acceptance” – and not just of differences, but sin. However, what the world is actually dying for isn’t tolerance or acceptance. It’s love.
Love may tolerate evil (God’s love apparently does), but it can never accept evil. If I had an addiction to heroin, it would be cruel for my wife to accept that. How could she say she loved me and yet enable me to carry on a habit that would slowly destroy me? Love would demand she help me in any way she could; not only for my sake, but for the sake of our relationship and our children.
So when we talk about making peace with our loved ones, we are not called to accept the sinful choices our loved ones make, just the different ones. Further, we are not called to tolerate those differences (that’s getting along apart). Instead, we are called to accept them out of love for them and awe of our God who delights in diversity.
[Want to better understand your heart’s yearning for love and acceptance? This is an excerpt of the 3rd book in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. So seriously consider purchasing a digital copy and you will learn three key life disciplines for relational success; habits best best forged BEFORE you fall in love. Even before you date! Find out more or purchase the book at this link.]
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!