Jesus… poster boy for intolerance?

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Christians get a bad reputation now-a-days for being “intolerant.” Since being tolerant is all the rage these days, I thought the word deserves a dictionary check, just to nail down exactly what the word means. (Definition thanks to: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tolerate)

tolerate [ˈtɒləˌreɪt]vb (tr)

1. to treat with indulgence, liberality, or forbearance
2. to permit
3. to be able to bear; put up with

4. (Medicine) Med to have tolerance for (a drug, poison, etc.)

The media and tolerance rights advocates (people who want others to tolerate their opinions) like to suggest that tolerating someone is synonymous with embracing that person’s ideology. The term “embracing diversity” gets kicked around as a likable catch phrase that makes everyone feel all warm, fuzzy, and accepted. The terms “tolerance” and “embracing diversity” are often used in reference to the same idea; acceptance of others.

But this is false.

Tolerance isn’t accepting someone’s ideologies, but refers to merely “putting up” with them, or “forbearing” them. Something that Christians have been doing for thousands of years. But, we have these pesky things called “morals” that we stubbornly hold on to despite all manner of persecution through the years.

So, Christians, being followers of Jesus Christ, are said by many to be intolerant. While we are called to be loving towards other people, we must remember that Christians are merely forgiven sinners. So we are prone to being less than perfect. Jesus, however, was the perfect example of what we were called to be.

So, was Jesus intolerant?

You may or may not ascribe to the Christian faith. In either case, remember that we (Christians) believe that Jesus was God who came down to earth in the form of a man. This means that Jesus was Holy, all powerful, and all knowing. This is the man who the Bible compares our most moral actions with, and declares those actions as “filthy rags.” The holiest of men is a filthy pedophile compared to the epic perfection of God. Not very flattering for us. Yet this perfect man came down from heaven, grew up, and spent the last three years of his life devoted to the “worst” people in the society at that time. He didn’t just get up on a soapbox and yell at them for their sin (He yelled at the Pharisee’s from time to time), He put soles on his love, and helped the poor and fed the hungry.

Was Jesus tolerant? Yes. Very. The King of Kings was mingling with the lowest, most sinful men. He was the most tolerant man in the history of history.

His righteousness in comparison with our sinfulness is a chasm of epic proportions. He had every right to destroy this sinful world. But he put up with us (tolerated) with just a little more because it’s His will that everyone be saved.

But, here’s the kicker that makes him different than the tolerance chanting crowd. He not only tolerated us, he died for us, so that while we were yet sinners, we might be saved. So we see the answer that Jesus gave people who disagreed with Him was not intolerance (he was friends with the sinners), not just tolerance, but a heart so full of love, that He gave himself up for the worst of us. Jesus didn’t just yell, he did. He didn’t just tolerate sinners presence, he loved them intensely, and helped them find a better life. He was physically present in their lives as he told them about the intangible aspects of God’s love. He put the rubber down on the road.

And I think that’s the example we need to follow. We shouldn’t spit on people who disagree with us. We shouldn’t just ignore them, or “tolerate” them. We should love them. We should love them without compromising our convictions. Jesus was the most moral man in the history of men, but people were drawn to His love for them. It’s totally possible for the same to be true of us. It’s far easier said than done, but Jesus promises He’ll help us. Without His example, we are merely disagreeable or anti-social.

After all, Love conquers all.

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