Tolerance Does Not Always Equal Love

I was reading the blog of a 20-something Christian woman this morning. She had written a couple of articles on tolerance that I found very interesting. We live in a culture where tolerance of whatever anyone wants to believe or do is considered the most important virtue. But this young woman argued that complete tolerance is the opposite of true love. I thought this line of her article in particular made a great point:

“Where Tolerance will let you do as you like though it will destroy you, Love won’t agree with or approve of the things you do, but will die for you anyway.”  Thorns and Myrtles.

If you are a parent, consider this. Your child wants to eat nothing but sweets and candy because she believes they are the best and tastiest food. “Vegetables, after all, are just gross,” she says. As a parent, you have two choices. You can tolerate your child’s behavior, or you can tell your child she is wrong and that she must eat her vegetables, fruits, and grains. The wisdom of our culture would dictate that it is unfair for you to tell her what is right and wrong, but love tells a different story. If you care about and love your child, you must choose the second option. Tolerance is not an option for the loving parent because to allow the child to eat only sweets and candy will cause them serious health problems.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I can tolerate him.” It’s not something you say about someone you care about or love. It’s something you say about someone who matters not to you in the least. He’s there, and that’s okay; but if he wasn’t, that would be just fine, too. So why do we value tolerance above true love? Real love, the type of love Jesus exhibited on the cross, is a love that wants what is best for others. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16. He laid down His life that we might be freed from bondage to sin, that we might enjoy the freedom of living as God intended us to live.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor. This is the second commandment after loving God. We are to love our neighbors as Jesus loved us. We can learn something about how Jesus loved us from the story of the woman caught in adultery as recorded in John ch. 8. After suggesting that he who was without sin should cast the first stone at her (stoning being the punishment for adultery), and everyone having dropped their stones to the ground and walked away, Jesus spoke to the woman: 

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11.

Do you see what He said at the end? “Leave your life of sin.” The love of Jesus involved an understanding of right and wrong, of what was sinful, and He asks those who follow Him to leave their life of unrepentant sin. Jesus did not tolerate this woman’s behavior in the sense that we use the word tolerance today. But He did love her with a love Divine. With a love that is greater than all the tolerance the world can muster.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


9 Responses

  1. Linda,

    Thank you for explaining the difference between love and tolerence…so beautifully…Especially I love that example which you quoted..about training a child..

    Lets hold on to the love that He offers…and show that love to others.
    God Bless,

  2. Linda,

    My home pastor always said…there is something worse than hate or love…and that is indifference. Tolerance is indifference in a different word. When the world says…it doesn’t bother me…whatsoever, then the spirit of complacency steps in and God hates it. It is the LUKEWARM spirit in the church.

    Thank you and God bless you!


    • Thank you, Gladwell! I appreciate the encouragement. I agonized over posting this as I wrote it, worried about the reaction it would receive. But our God is good and He has used you and others to encourage me on having written such a difficult, but important, post. Peace, Linda

  3. Linda – I’ve really struggled with the word tolerance, in part, because of what you have so clearly stated. I think we are to love everyone, as Christ commands. I’ve come to believe that the first step is accepting people in the place where they are–meeting them in their pain, shame, hope, grief, and sin. And loving them as best as we possibly can. As Christ would want us to. –Godspeed, Elizabeth

  4. Thanks Linda, for talking more about tolerance. It’s a very emotionally charged subject, it seems! Good! God bless you for spreading His truth and love! deb

  5. Excellent thought. Sometimes I think it’s harder to love someone than than it is to tolerate them. True love always involves doing what is right, and that is a lesson it took me a long time to learn.

  6. Well said! Much easier to explain why we don’t want to be tolerant, but love so much we want to help course correct our friends. We can judge, but we cannot condemn. Thanks.

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