Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why Can't You Be More Tolerant?!?

Oh, I did it this time! Darren and I got into a discussion about sex outside of marriage. We disagreed and apparently I quoted a Bible verse or two, and so he asks, "How come you Christians are so intolerant?!?”

We got talking about the “Golden Rule.” You know, when Jesus said,

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

My mother once caught me calling someone a mean name. I got called into the house and was rhetorically asked, "Do you like it when people call you names?!?!?" "No?" "THEN DON'T CALL ANYONE ELSE NAMES!!!!" There it is; the golden rule in action. If I don’t like something done to me, I shouldn’t do it to them. A child can understand it.

This scripture comes to mind, when I think of why someone might not want to be told that they are living a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s commands:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
John 3:19

Who wants to be tolerated? I have been tolerated before, and it stinks! Ever find yourself at a party where you are not wanted, but out of courtesy, your presence is endured? Not fun! Ever been the last kid to be put on a team in Phys Ed.? You weren’t really chosen. They had to let you play. You were tolerated, cause the Gym teacher was right there. How’d that feel?

God’s Spirit does not let His children just “tolerate” people. We don’t tolerate, because we are required to love people. The bar for us has been set very high, and God is not going to lower it, just because people who don't want to follow Him, cry "Let me do what I want, and you just tolerate me!" Sorry, I can’t tolerate you. I love you!

We tolerate what we don't appreciate. Our bodies tolerate pain, or toxic medicines. Socialists tolerate religion, (while their aim is to end it). But you and I are in this life together, and God in me loves you.

When Jesus says, "Love others as you would be loved yourself," that is a very simple thing to do. People all know how they want to be treated. All that He is commanding us to do is something that should come most natural to us. I know how I want to be treated, and I am to treat you that way. He does NOT say, "Do unto others as they want you to do unto them." (That would be oppressive).

They tried that on John the Baptist and on Jesus, but the Lord said:

“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.”
Luke: 7:31,32

The apostle Paul wrote:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10

The Golden Rule is simple. Let’s not complicate it. God wants us to grow in our capacity to receive His love. People are free to love as they would be loved; as they were created to love others.

Ann and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary. In our early years together, we tried tweaking the golden rule. The problem was, that the things that I thought would please Ann, didn’t. And things she did with a loving heart to bless me, were things that weren’t appreciated. We laugh now, but then it felt like a crisis. Committed for life, to someone who doesn’t receive the way we love. What to do?

Like any seasoned couple, we had a breakthrough in our relationship, when Ann and I started letting the other love us according to the Golden Rule. When we stopped saying, "If you REALLY loved me, you would...." And now we hear ourselves more and more saying things like, "That was thoughtful of you, ..." or "That's Ann for you..." or "That's just how Tom loves..." What happened? It isn't magic. God increased our capacity to receive each other's love.

Allowing others to show you love, as THEY would like to be loved, clears our God given receptors for love. Ann was crestfallen 19 years ago, when I asked her not to iron my shirts. “That is why God made polyester.” I tried to joke. (Actually, I couldn't receive people serving me). I basically requested her not to express her love, as she wanted to. Gradually, if she wanted to iron something, I just let her. In more recent years, I've felt loved as she was doing so. Yet another new way for me to experience Ann’s love opened up to me. This has happened to both of us, in many ways, over the years. This would not have happened, if Ann were only free to love me, as I would have wanted to be loved. And I would still be typing this in a leisure suit!

Someone once tried to sit us down and explain how to love each other "better." But they were trying to make Ann love me in the few ways that I could receive love. And they wanted me to express my love differently, in a way that was easiest for Ann to receive. It sounds good, but where is the transformation in that? God has all kinds of ways to love us. He wants us more able to receive true love, in whatever form it comes in. God wants us to love more, not to be appreciated more. There are so many ways that God loves us, that we don't yet appreciate. We need to change ourselves, not everyone around us.

When we first got overseas, there were things that people did "for" us, that we didn’t like. It was part of their culture. For example, whenever we were going on a trip, our Asian friends would all come and see us off at the bus or train or airport, and just as we were leaving, they would hand us "provisions" for the trip. I'm talking watermelons, large loaves of fresh baked bread, or bags of grapes, etc. Honestly, we had 2 babies to carry and our luggage was totally full! "Can't they see that?!? We can’t bring baked goods and fruit through customs! Am I to have to ride this train for 3 days with a watermelon on my lap?!? Honestly people!!!"

We were stuck. On the one hand, to refuse these parting gifts would have been a slap in the face of dear friends, and to accept them was a more a burden than a help to us. But we took them. Had to. God and all, you know?

That first year, we’d take the unwanted gifts and thank the givers. Gradually, we figured out some tricks by watching what the local folk did when traveling. We’d bring an extra bag just for such last minute send off gifts. We figured out ways of sharing these provisions with other passengers and those in need outside of bus stations, etc. A few more years and we were receiving these parting gifts with heartfelt thanks, perceiving the love behind the gifts. Soon, we noticed that when our friends gave us these things, that we actually and truly FELT loved. Another way to receive peoples’ love, had been opened up to us. God wants us to receive love. We can’t do that, if we keep tweaking the Golden Rule, insisting people love us as we would be loved.

So I said to Darren, and I say to anyone, I will not tolerate your walking into eternal self-destruction, because I have this love for you, that my Father in Heaven has for you Himself. I won't separate from Him, and so I'm compelled to tell you about my Lord and His ways. And if you see in me, things that are harming my soul, and you tell me, well, that is how I would be loved. So feel free.

I appeal to you to please look up the verbs "to love" and "to tolerate." My hope is that you'll see that it stinks to be “tolerated,” and that while it sometimes may be uncomfortable to be loved, that being loved is a good thing. My God loves you. And so do I. Deal with it!

Think I'll just quote another Bible verse or two.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Ephesians 5:8-14

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