A friend recently asked me,
“When you say, ‘love like Jesus’ (a phrase we’ve begun using to describe the intentional imitation of Jesus in our community) I feel like you are telling me I have to tolerate everyone’s behavior. Are you telling me to tell Muslims “You’re Okay!”? Am I just supposed to sit by and condone other people’s sins? Where does tolerance end?”
My response was, “I don’t think ‘tolerance’ goes far enough.”
“Tolerance” still puts us in the judge’s seat. To tolerate we must first judge that someone is wrong (and we are right), that someone is unclean (and we are righteous), that someone is a sinner (and we are sanctified). To “tolerate” another we must judge their behavior, deem that it is inappropriate, but continue in relationship with them regardless.
There are two problems with this.
1) Jesus made it very clear that we should not judge others. We aren’t supposed to be going around labeling people as clean and unclean. We are to be concerned about our own surrender and obedience, but we shouldn’t be declaring others to be sinners.
2) Because in humility we need to understand that we are all broken, sinful messes. Our healing and salvation comes through no merit of our own. It is grace. Therefore we should not take pride in it, but rather we should love others for who they are without passing judgement on them.
The one thing we all have in common, regardless or our age, race, sex, socio-economic status, or location is our brokenness and need for relationship with God. We need to embrace that.
Instead of tolerance I think we should use the word “compassion”. Compassion demands we begin with an individual’s story, not his/her actions. We must seek to embrace and understand others first. We need to learn to see the beautiful image of God in each individual He has created.
Loving like Jesus demands compassion, not tolerance.