“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, TOLERATE your enemies!” Matthew 5:43 – 44
“Honor your father and mother. TOLERATE your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 19:19
“I command you to TOLERATE each other in the same way that I TOLERATE you.” John 15:12
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I have four children, ages seven, six, three and one. Having them around the house is a hoot. Even this morning as I write, the two youngest have managed to climb over the sofa and wedge themselves between the wall, the sofa and the coffee table. And now they’re stuck.
My kids love each other. Don’t get me wrong – they fight and scratch and claw like any other kids. They have their selfish moments, their irrational outbursts. But at heart they are great friends and enjoy each other’s company.
They love each other. I do everything in my power to keep it that way, because they’re my kids and I want them to love each other as much as I love them. Experiencing moments where they genuinely care for one another can be some of the most moving times of my life.
Would I ever want them to get to a place where they were only tolerant of each other? No way.
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In case you didn’t realize it, I altered the verses above, substituting the word “love” with the world “tolerate.”
We are not called to tolerate people, although in the current world system tolerance has become a virtue of sorts. See, tolerance is a superficial action that has little power to bring about actual change. When we tolerate people, our goal is strictly modifying our external behavior. I can tolerate someone in public and still talk about them when they’re not around. I can tolerate someone and still end up perpetuating stereotypes.
Love is so different from this.
I think turning to tolerance is a natural response in the face of conflict or injustice. I can understand why we call for tolerance, when so many people treat each other with such incredible hate. While tolerance might be part of a process, it can never be our end goal.
Perhaps at some point tolerance can be helpful in bringing two people into the same room, but it is not a long term solution for conflict, inequality or misunderstanding. Tolerance alone cannot change societies or transform hearts. Tolerance cannot keep the peace for an extended period of time.
Only love can do that.
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What do you think? Is tolerance a virtue? Am I off on this one?