Tolerance, or Love?

This past Sunday we reviewed one of the most well-known of Jesus’ statements: “judge not”. In our review of this text, we noted that these words are popularly referenced as code for “leave me alone”, or, “let me do what I want to do”. They are often quoted because they fit perfectly in a culture whose highest ideal is tolerance, the idea that persons should be left to pursue their own self-determined ideal of the good life, even if that ideal is in fact killing them. While we should agree that tolerance is better than intolerance, tolerance is not love. And while tolerance is passive, love is engaged. So what did Jesus have in mind when he told us not to judge others? Is this Jesus’ endorsement of a kind of relational passivity? I don’t think so. In fact, I think he is pushing us in the opposite direction, reminding us that life is best lived when we consider the well-being of others. Could any of us be entirely passive with our children, spouses, family or friends? One can easily see that to be in vital relationship necessarily means that passivity is impossible. To love someone means that we very much caught up in their well-being.

What does Jesus mean then? Simply this: a relationally engaged life must have, as its first principle, an embrace of our common humanity. We are not essentially different from each other. We are all made of the same stuff, prone to the same fears, faults and failures. And therefore, it is hypocritical to hold others in contempt. To be contemptuous of another is to condemn one’s own humanity. Far better, far truer, to reach out a hand while you recognize the need of grace for yourself. Listen to Saint Paul’s commentary on this idea:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. (Galatians 5:13-14)

See you this Sunday at 9:29 or 11:11.

Bob Osborne

Some questions for further reflection:

1. What is your understanding of the value of tolerance in our culture? What do you think about the idea that love is better than tolerance, and that love is engaged? 2. When have you ever experienced something like “loving correction”? In what way was it loving? In what way was it correction? 3. After reading this, who comes to your mind as someone you could reach out to? Who could you get engaged with in a loving and helpful way?