Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tolerating the Intolerable

Tolerate - to allow something that is bad, unpleasant etc. to exist, happen or be done

Tolerance - the capacity to endure pain or hardship; sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.

Tolerant - willing to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own
   synonym:  long-suffering - patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship

Intolerant - unable or unwilling to endure; not willing to allow or accept something

There are words that buzz around the outer senses of my body. I hear them on TV and radio, read them online and sometimes, depending on the context in which they are used, I sometimes cringe when I see or hear them.  I'll admit it, these words bug me. They root around up in this nest of mine called a brain and when I'd rather be thinking on and studying words that uplift and refresh, sometimes certain words just keep invading and butting in where I finally say, "ok, ok, I'll look it up!"

That happened today.

Used appropriately words can unite, they can bring healing, they can bring hope.  Used inappropriately words can divide, they can cause pain and they can birth hopelessness.

When I looked these two words up on Merriam-Webster's app my eye landed on the synonym long-suffering, which brought to mind a word that is a familiar church word from the King James Bible.
As I look and search I find that long suffering means simply to be slow to anger, to be patient.  And in many of the places I have looked so far, it is used to describe our God, the one who is perfect in being slow to anger.  Unfortunately, I don't think we in America and the rest of the world understand tolerance or what it means to tolerate under those same lights.

When someone asks me or demands of me to be tolerant of something I personally am convinced is, dare I say - wrong or even worse, a SIN - I can become a little hot, filled with anger, not the slow simmering crockpot kind, but the quick microwave kind.

Then when I say, "ok, I'll be tolerant of your behavior if you are tolerant of mine, yet I don't receive the same consideration and continue to be accused of being "intolerant" that microwave response happens again.

Maybe I'm the only one who has this problem.

But then I think of Jesus, the epitome of tolerance.  The One who does not accept or allow something bad or unpleasant to happen or exist or be done.  I can hear you arguing this point already.  "But Ronda, he does allow it because bad and unpleasant things happen."


But, that does not mean he is tolerant of them.  He is not tolerant of them.  He has never been tolerant of them.  His intolerance of them sent him to a painful death.  He has never been tolerant of anything that hurts his children.  Never.  His intolerance for the effects of our deeply rooted sin is what nailed him to the cross.  His intolerance drove him from the perfection of heaven.  His intolerance put on the human suit and lived the perfect life we cannot live, with all its disease and heartache and sufferings and struggles.  His intolerance is what caused him to give his life for a world that would reject him and was intolerant of him.

It wasn't tolerance for sin like the world demands we be, but rather it is his love for his children that drives him, that makes him slow to anger.  It is that love that doesn't tolerate for tolerance's sake, but love that tolerates for Jesus' sake, in Jesus' way.

It is not that Jesus does not know what you and I are going through in our struggles, but it is the fact that he does know what we are suffering that causes him to be intolerant of the sin that has caused the struggles.   We can accuse each other for the rest of our days of being intolerant of each other, but that does not bring about the change of heart that is required for peace between two people, two parties, or two countries or an entire planet for that matter.

Jesus is the model of true tolerant, long-suffering love.  He is the complete picture of what true tolerance looks like.  He gave his life for me and for you so that you and I would never have to experience the punishment of our sins dressed up as imperfections or quirks or bad choices or just the way we are.   Because he is slow to anger, because he is patient with everyone and not wanting anyone to perish, he stood up to the intolerable because he knows the damage it has done to his creation and we his precious children.

As his slowness to anger simmers, we can learn from him the same kind of timing.  We don't need to be tolerant for tolerance's sake, but we must seek to love like he did, in his way, for His sake.  He has never tolerated the effects of what sin has done to separate us from him, and he never once compromised who he was or what he has done by loving the person tainted by the intolerable.

Tolerance for tolerance's sake is pointless.  Love for Jesus' sake, in all its messy ways, is never pointless.  Only love wins.  Only love changes hearts.  Grace is messy.  Grace is hard to give when tolerance is used as a cheap imitation.  Your cries for tolerance may be what you think you need, but my friends, what we all need is grace.   We don't need tolerance....because tolerance lies.  Tolerance covers up and disguises the truth.  Tolerance for tolerance's sake leads only to more intolerance.

But grace, God's long-suffering grace tells the truth and loves anyway.  Long-suffering Grace unveils the lies so that we can see the truth.  Long-suffering Grace wins every time.  Long suffering grace tolerates the intolerable.  Long suffering grace frees the captives.

It's not easy to pour out grace and have a slow simmering anger when our microwaves are set with the punch of a few buttons and ready to hit start on a moment's notice.  It's not easy to love instead of just tolerate.

It's not easy to be agents of grace in a world that thinks its only need is for more tolerance.  To tolerate the world's way is not love.  To tolerate without the love of Jesus is only hate dressed in a poorly made costume of love and really negates all that Jesus did.  To believe that tolerance for the intolerable is a true reflection of love is foolish and reaps no reward either for you or for the one whose behavior you feel you must tolerate or is demanding of your tolerance.

You can love without compromising truth.  You can love with tolerance in its purest form, the long-suffering kind.  The kind that is slow to anger.  The kind that has tolerated me andyou.  The kind that has loved us in all our intolerableness.

But you can't love in your own strength or by your own devices.

The only way one can truly tolerate in the long-suffering kind of way is to study and practice how Jesus did it.  The long-suffering, slow to anger, patient kind of tolerance.  He's the one who gives you what you need to be what he has called you to be.

To be tolerant never means accepting sinful behaviors just for the sake of tolerance.  True long-suffering tolerance loves first and always and comes to where your critics are crying out for tolerance.  Instead of hitting the start button on the microwave, the temperature is turned down on the crockpot and you try, once again, to see the heart behind the suffering one in front of you.  The heart Jesus gave his life for.

It's not easy, but neither was it easy for Jesus.  He did the hard part, the way is paved, the path is clearly marked.  Love is His way.  His love is the only way.  Love, not tolerance alone.


For further study on being slow to anger and patience:

Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; 

Nahum 1:3; James 1:19;  Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22;

  Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:10; Hebrews 6:12; James 5:10; 2 Peter 3:15

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