Is putting up with someone the same thing as loving them?
Suspecting that I already knew the answer, I recently asked the Lord to shed some light on this for me. If I don't agree with someone or don't relate with them...if I am annoyed with them or maybe they are just not very nice to me...as a Christian I am commanded to love these people. I know this. But as a human, I am inclined to reject them. So the solution for me has always been to just "put up with them." But is this love? Putting up with people?
The word that the Lord first brought to mind as I contemplated this is tolerance. I came to realize that what I do much of the time is merely the practice of tolerance. Somewhat of a buzz word in our culture today, tolerance is generally considered to be a good thing and apparently I have embraced it, too. I have believed that if I just put up with these people, behave myself around them, keep my thoughts about them to myself, then I am demonstrating love. If I can just manage a smile and some formal niceties when I am around them, then I am being a good Christian.
But the practice of tolerance, or putting up with people, is a far cry from the love of Christ. Think about how God demonstrates his love: "while we were still sinners he died for us" (Rom 5:8), and that Christ suffered...for the unrighteous...to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18) Christ suffered, to the point of death, for a relationship. Not tolerance.
Tolerance is everything we can give of ourselves without suffering. It's literally all we can do to tolerate someone. It is a man-made plan that leaves God totally out of the picture. Tolerance is a way that seems "doable." Loving requires something more. Loving will always require us to suffer. Loving will always require grace. Loving will always require surrender and dependence. What God has revealed to me is that I'm tolerating quite a bit, but not loving much at all.
We are certainly called to tolerate people. But there's more to it than that. The question is, am I tolerating someone in love or out of a self-righteous attempt to be good or even politically correct? The way to tell the difference is by asking the question, Is the goal of my tolerance of this person to have a relationship with them? If the answer is no then we have tolerance with out love. The result of tolerance alone will always be indifference while the hope and goal of tolerance in love will always be relationship.
When we settle for tolerance, we ignore what God does through Love. Intentionally, sincerely, selflessly, sacrificially, relentlessly--He pursues us, He loves us. Tolerance is a cheap substitute for Love.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Eph 4:1-7, NASB)