|Kids don’t need to be told how to do this.|
On November 16, the UN urges people worldwide to celebrate and observe the UN International Day for Tolerance. The point? To foster understanding and education between peoples of different origins. (That’s my summary, not theirs.)
While I love the idea of celebrating differences, I’m not so sure of the name. I know tolerance has become the buzzword of the 2000‘s. If you’re not tolerant? You’re a bigoted, uneducated jerk. Basically. That’s the edited version. Whose version of tolerant? Well, it depends. To steal from Orwell, it does appear some people are more tolerable than others.
But I refuse to be tolerant.
“Tolerance” is such a feeble word. I tolerate creaky knees. I tolerate cold weather and slow checkout lanes and JW’s at my door. (Although to be honest, I usually hide from them.) I don’t love any of those. I don’t even like them very much.
You know how the online dictionary defines tolerance?
“To allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference. To accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.”
Tolerance only asks that I endure you. I can continue to dislike you intensely, but if I deal with you like I would a root canal, I’m a good person. As long as I allow your existence, I’m on moral high ground. You see what a weak ideal we’re celebrating here?
Now, I realize that allowing someone else’s existence would be a significant step up for people like ISIS. It’s a steep enough goal if you’re the UN, so what they’re doing is great. But for most of us? I’d like to think we could aim higher.
Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Pray for your enemies.” He told stories of racial strife healed by a Samaritan salving a man’s wounds and putting him on a donkey. He rebuked the unjust treatment of women by refusing to throw a stone at one.
Then he showed us how it was done by forgiving those who murdered him even as they cheered about it. That “Father forgive them” was not an act of tolerance. It was a declaration of love.
It was a gauntlet thrown down in the name of a new Kingdom where love, not mere tolerance, would reign. It was a challenge for his followers to take up.
In contrast to tolerance, witness the definition of what Jesus meant when he told us to love our neighbor.
“Agapeis selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. The essence of agape is self-sacrifice.”
That doesn’t sound like the kind of feeling I’d have toward a root canal.
|The day we, literally, sat down for tea with a Chinese communist.
And we had a great time.
I have a challenge. Skip the tolerance. Go right to the love. Put away the name calling, the labeling, the Facebook posts about “those people” and how dumb they must be. Stow your “right” to be angry and your certainty that yours is the only reasonable outlook.
Sit down for tea with someone you disagree with on however many levels. Someone from a very different background. Not to argue. Not to convince him or her you’re right. Just to talk. Mostly to listen. See if you can’t hammer out more than a simple tolerance by the time you’re done. I’m serious about this—do it. This is not just a theoretical challenge.
If those who claim to have accepted Jesus’ declaration of love for themselves cannot, read that will not, lavish it as unconditionally as He did, we’re not even tolerating. We’re just plain failing. Fortunately for us, he just keeps offering that love, and power, to improve our record.
I need that power. I fail at the love thing. I need power every day to turn away from what I think I deserve and how right I think I am toward “selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.” But tolerance? I want to fail at that. I don’t want to endure those with whom I disagree. I want to love them. With whom are you going to have tea?