Recently I met someone whose first question of me was, “What does your church believe about gay marriage?” (Understand, this was a chance meeting that by circumstances would be brief). I explained what I believe is a pastoral perspective of marriage and a Biblical approach to addressing the subject. The fellow never let me finish my explanation and said that he would never come to such a church. He railed on me being judgmental and believed God would, on judgment day, find me convicted of being intolerant of others. With a few more generalizations about the kind of person I am, he told me to get out of his place. I thanked him for the time and as I approached the door I turned and said, “Haven’t you just judged me without really knowing anything about me?” He said nothing but “get out”.
It seems it has become more difficult to have open discussions about certain topics in this present culture. Some issues are so emotionally charged that it is easier to label people intolerant and write them off as ignorant bigots. We hear the call for tolerance and yet it seems that tolerance really means you are required to hold a certain position or remain silent. In the present climate, we are to tolerate everything except what some would label intolerance. Maybe it should be called a qualified tolerance.
I suspect, for some, the call for tolerance is an attempt to marginalize, silence or guilt others into submitting to the public political position. Unfortunately, that approach will do very little to bring different parties together to discuss why or how we arrive at our understanding of various actions, beliefs or preferences. In the end the push to tolerant all views, beliefs or opinions becomes as intolerant as those who the tolerant ones berates.
Tolerance is just too fickle a description of Jesus’ call on our lives. Tolerance in our culture is code for accepting everything as normal or equally valid. I believe Jesus calls us to love others regardless of likes, behaviors, or beliefs. Love is not the same as tolerance. Tolerance is only interested in avoiding the hard work of really loving others who differ from us. Love does not tolerate what destroys or harms what God has created. Love speaks against evil and supports what is of God’s will. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, not tolerate them.
Love like that is not based on human emotion or tolerance; it is the gift of God in Jesus Christ. It is mostly clearly seen at the cross.