It’s all we need.
It’s what makes the world go ’round.
And followers of Jesus are supposed to love. It’s expected of them. It is expected of them because Jesus taught about love therefore if you claim to be a follower of Jesus you too much love.
The thing is, is that today somehow love and tolerance have become synonyms when they really are two completely different words all together. The love that Jesus taught, the love that is spoken of in the Bible that followers of Jesus are to live and do is not tolerance but true love. Biblical love is to have a conscience decision to give unconditional welcome, hospitality, and acceptance despite who the person is because they are made in the image of God.
Tolerance on the other hand is different. Tolerance is an acceptance of someone else’s choices of life style to be not only the norm but embraced regardless of one’s own personal views.
The opposite of love is not hate nor is the opposite of tolerance bigotry. The opposite of love is apathy. When one truly loves as Jesus loved, you give your all to someone else despite who they are. When you are apathetic, you just don’t care. You don’t care about people, the world around you, injustice, other people’s problems. You are just apothetic.
The opposite of tolerance is ignorance. When people cry out for tolerance, they cry out for acceptance and understanding. Intolerance is being ignorant and not educated about who someone else is. Yet the response to ignorance isn’t education towards tolerance but instead learning to love as Jesus loved.
There’s a great moment in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus is having lunch with Simon the Pharisee when a woman who lived a sinful life (that’s code for prostitute) comes into the house with expensive perfume oil. She cries and cries so much she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and then cleans them with her hair (a good woman back then had her hair all tied up, not loose…again a symbol of what her profession is) and then she anoints Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume oil.
This is so interesting because Jesus was a guest in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It was customary to welcome esteemed guests with a kiss (kinda like a handshake today, though some cultures still do a quick peck on the cheek), either have a servant wash off their feet or at least give them a place to do so (walking around in sandals all day on dusty roads can make for major foot stank and dirtiness), and then either give them some perfume oil to use or have a servant anoint them with this oil (it was millennial before deodorant was invented…again, it was to help with the stank). Simon the Pharisee did none of this.
In fact, Simon the Pharisee looked down in disgust towards this woman and was wondering why Jesus was even letting her get close to him. A good upstanding citizen would never let a woman like this do something like that. Yet Jesus not only did that but said to her
“Your sins are forgiven…your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:48, 50
Well, this don’t make no sense.
Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee a parable (a quick story to illustrate a point) of two guys who owe money. One owes about a grand, the other owes a whole heck of a lot more (think student debt size). Both are forgiven their debts. Jesus asks Simon the Pharisee who is more grateful and would love the moneylender the most? Simon the Pharisee’s response was the one who had the most debt forgiven.
Simon the Pharisee was right on one point–the one forgiven much will love much. This woman knew she done wrong. She knew she needed unconditional welcome, acceptance, and hospitality from the only one who could truly give it to her. She wanted the love of God through Jesus. Simon the Pharisee didn’t even tolerate her presence.
Yet Simon the Pharisee needed just as much forgiveness as she did. He just didn’t realize it. He was doing well. He knew his stuff. He was doing alright. He didn’t have to do either love or tolerance.
Yet Jesus didn’t cal him to do tolerance. He called him to love. He called him to love much. When you don’t understand or truly know how much love and forgiveness you have been given, it’s hard to truly love others as much in that Biblical love. It then becomes tolerance instead.
Jesus never called his followers to tolerate others. Tolerance and love are not synonyms. They mean two different things.
Today people are calling for tolerance and pure acceptance instead of loving and trying to live together despite differences. Jesus is love, he is not tolerance. As a follower of Jesus, I am to love as he loved. And that love is to lay down my life for someone else (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16). You don’t do that with tolerance. That is only found in true Biblical love. And because as a follower of Jesus I have been forgiven much, I do my best to love much.
How about you? Do you love much in knowing that you have been forgiven much, or do you just try to live in tolerance? How can you instead love much?