Tolerance? Love!

We live in a world where people decry “intolerance” as the foundational problem of society. I have a problem with that choice of wording because a lack of tolerance is not the root problem in our world – it is a symptom of something much bigger… much worse. Our biggest problem is a lack of love… which leads to a lack of respect for others, a lack of compassion, a lack of integrity, a lack of thankfulness, a lack of honor and yes, a lack of tolerance.

If our biggest pursuit, our primary goal, in this world is to end intolerance, then what we are really saying is that what we want above all is a world that is primarily, chiefly “tolerant” of others. Really? That is what we are going to strive for? Tolerating one another? Literally what we are saying when we say that is that we want to strive to learn to put up with one another, to somehow make ourselves accept the fact that we have to live in proximity to those we don’t agree with or like?  I mean, I tolerate a bad smell on an elevator when I don’t want to make the smelly offender feel embarrassed. I tolerate a waiter or waitress’s poor service because I think maybe they’ve had a rough day. I tolerate a burn on my hand when I pick up a hot pan from the oven because what else can I do? Cut my hand off out of anger? Those are all things that I don’t like or want but that i will tolerate. I don’t want the biggest, greatest lesson I teach my kids to be that they should just live to be tolerant human beings.

I want my kids to live in a world where they embrace people around them – not just tolerate them. I want them to live in a world where we do far better than tolerate one another… I want them to live in a world where we respect one another… where we appreciate the differences that make the human race so vibrant and intriguing. I want them to share ideas and not shout one another down. I want them to live in a world where all human life is tenderly cared for – regardless of race, creed or ethnicity – or birth status. I want them to live in a world where people stop focusing on what’s been wrong and start encouraging, nurturing and growing what all is right in the world. I want them to live in a world where hard work is not seen as a burden but is realized as a way to better themselves and those around them. I want them to live in a  world where we strive to have a better life not just eke out an existence on handouts. I want them to live in a world where they understand and obey laws – not deciding which ones they will choose to obey. I want them to live in a world where accountability is expected from everyone for their actions including those who are in positions of authority and those who are vying for those positions. I want them to live in a world where they respect authority and honor the sacrifice of people who gave their lives for the people they serve. I want them to live in a world where justice is equal for everyone. I want them to live in a world where we put the needs of our neighbors ahead of our own. I want them to live in a world where human lives carried in the wombs of their mothers are equally as important as the lives of those of us who have already been given the status of persons simply because we exited a womb and took a breath of air on our own. I want them to live in  a world where others don’t tell them whose lives are important and whose aren’t.

And because my wife and I want all of those things for our kids… we teach them to respect others… to be thankful for the blessings in their life… to be a friend to the friendless… to be compassionate and care about the needs of others… to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves… to honor the sacrifice of people who serve… and most of all, we teach them to love… specifically, because of our faith, we teach them to love like Jesus.

The best way we have found to teach them these life traits is by doing our best to live our lives practicing those traits for them… is by living our lives in love…  We start with teaching them small simple things which I think will shape them in BIG ways – like:

• Always, and I mean ALWAYS, when you go out for dinner, tip the person who serves you BIG. Do I think that will change the world? No. But it is helping them understand generosity.

• Always, and I mean ALWAYS, say thank you. Whether it’s for a gift of epic proportions or it’s somebody filling your glass with lukewarm water. Do I think that will change the world? No. But it is helping them to remember to be grateful.

• Always, and I mean ALWAYS, when the National Anthem plays, or the Pledge of Allegiance is said, you take off your hat, you keep your eyes on the flag, and you put your hand on your heart. Do I think that will change the world? No. But it is helping them learn respect and honor… it is building in them a sense of the gravity of the sacrifices paid for them by countless others.

• Always, and I mean ALWAYS, if you see someone who is alone or being ignored or mistreated at school, go and be their friend. Do I think that will change the world? Actually… yes. Yes I think that simple practice does have the power to change the world.

I guess some might say that I am naive. Some might say that what I want is a pipe dream. Some might say the best we can hope for is the ability for us to tolerate one another like ill winds on elevators. Maybe so. But I would rather hope and strive for better. I would rather live in a world where we challenge one another to greatness through love rather than settle for the mediocrity of only being tolerant of one another. If the best we can hope for is tolerance, then it’s the best we will ever have. Personally? I hope for far greater than us just being tolerant of one another. I hope that love will push us to be far better. Because love? Love covers a multitude of sins.

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Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are ever in the area – stop by and say hello! Weekend service times are Sundays at 9:30am and 11am!

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