“…if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2b
Sitting around a campfire with long-missed friends, toasting homemade marshmallows and talking Jesus… There are few things that can fill you up so completely, so fast, and so satisfyingly. Fire, food, God, and talk can sum up huge portions of last weekend for me. It was good times.
Delicious chocolate-drizzled pumpkin scones and sizzling bacon over discussions of Gideon gave way to trail-munching up the mountainside and worship hymns hummed while fishing the St. Joe. Through it all, discussion, laughter, and debate abounded, and it was good to be able to talk freely in unpretentious, nonjudgmental fellowship.
As we feasted and chatted, snacked and sang, one topic seemed to cycle back again and again, and on the long drive home I found myself reflecting upon a single word: tolerance.
I think that tolerance has gotten a bad wrap, and now it’s so wrapped up in connotations and misconceptions that it has become warped.
Few topics are as hotly debated in Christian circles today as the tolerance of Christ. Was He, in fact, tolerant? Some say no, pointing to the overturning of the moneylenders’ tables in the Temple. Some say yes, and they recall the woman caught in adultery who was granted mercy and sanctuary in the breast of her Savior. Those on the fence assert that Christ “hated the sin and loved the sinner,” and I think there is much truth in this. But, it is a hard line to walk in our own lives, this hate-love, and Christ was better at it.
So often, we forget that the sinner is so tightly bound up in her sin. Too often, we forget that there are still too many planks in our own eyes to see clearly. Too often we forget that love is greater even than faith.
There is, I’ll grant you, a call for Christians to hold one another accountable. But, what of love? Is “hard love” the only way?
I tried that once. I laid down the law and towed the line, encouraging, entreating. It brought me nothing but alienation and heartache. Those I was trying to help felt nothing but disappointment and rejection.Hard love was more about the sin than the sinner.
Hard love was more about judgment than about love.
Hard love closed every door until there was no way to love anymore because there was no true relationship left at all, only miscommunication and walls and bridges.
Thank God He softened my hard love and taught me tolerance again before time ran out to love.
Where hard love closed doors, tolerance opened the lines of communication again.
Tolerance opened the paths to forgiveness.
Tolerance taught me compassion and it enabled that compassion to be felt by others.
And if it did not eradicate the sins of others, at least it taught me a more righteous way.
Tolerance is not blind acceptance. If it were, then I would feel no compunction to reject in my own life those things that I tolerate in others’. Tolerance is merely the act of choosing the sinner above the sin. It is recognizing and honoring the human being so inextricably linked to fallen human nature. It is ignoring the splinters in our neighbor’s eye and learning how to extract the beams from our own. It is living by example rather than by preaching and loving in the midst of all our brokenness, yours and mine.
It is the choice to love unconditionally and let God do the work of sanctifying…
in our neighbors…
It is taking faith in our hope, hoping in faith, and trusting to the greatest of these.