In the 60s, it was “Love not War”; in the 70s, the Cold War, Space Race, debates over abortion, Earth Day and a mixture of “optimisim, pessimism and cynicism”. The theme of the 80s was global warming and HIV. In the 90s, it was political correctness. In the first decade of the new century, it was September 11th and the War on Terrorism. Now, in 2013, the hot topic keyword is TOLERANCE.
Every generation has its issues and regardless of whether or not you buy in, the issue of the day affects everyone. As founder of a group with a broad reach to a diverse community, this word ‘tolerance’ has been brought across my desk more often than I ever would have expected. Tolerance is a medium sized word with huge implications: implications that will essentially define who we are.
Dictionary.com defines tolerance as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”
As a Christian, I have been accused of intolerance. I am guilty. Because I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, I also believe the teachings within its pages to be 100% true. There are behaviours, lifestyles and choices with which I don’t agree. There are things happening in this world that sadden and disappoint me. There are things that hurt my feelings and make me afraid for my children. There are definitely things of which I am not tolerant.
In the last two paragraphs, I have underlined two words. These two little, common words are the crux, I believe, of tolerance. The United States was founded on the principles of freedom and choice. Not everyone had to agree on everything and no one man would have dominion over the lives of the rest. Now, however, in a wave of intolerance, anyone who does not embrace the choices of the vocal communities is labeled judgmental and intolerant. If two people have opposing principles, it is fair game to call each other intolerant.
It’s time to go back to the definition. Just because I don’t embrace what someone else is doing DOES NOT MEAN that I am hating them or judging them or telling them what to do. I can choose to be completely separate from another person’s choices without hating the person. The definition of tolerance allows the freedom to choose who you want to be BUT it also allows for someone else to choose something different. As a Christian, it is my responsibility to live my convictions. The Bible is very clear about what is not ok for me and about how important it is for me to love those around me.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…
In a time where some churches are preaching hate, terrorists are destroying nations and neighbours are denouncing one another, I believe we need to revisit our motivations and responses. If, at the most fundamental of levels, we do not agree, our choices will not be the same. Castigating, disparaging and battling one another is not going to help. Chances are, if we are committed to our beliefs, we are not going to agree. You don’t want to be forced into my belief system nor I into yours. What is the solution?
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
It doesn’t mean we need to agree or even approve of one another’s choices but as Christians, we have a calling to love with Christ’s love.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being untied with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”