July 17, 2015

Graciousness vs. Tolerance

For at least 16 years, we have heard people preaching tolerance.  Tolerance of religions, tolerance of people's lifestyle choices, tolerance of different standards of truth.

And yet, for all that, I am finding so many examples of intolerance in my Facebook feed and in my news feed.  For example:

  • On Facebook someone posted a picture of a black woman on the East Coast who started a group to stomp on the American flag publicly.  Along with her picture was an exhortation to not hire her EVER  because of her leadership in this group.
  • Someone  posted another picture of a black woman on Facebook who posted her exultation that some white policemen were killed right after a string of black men where killed by white police officers for really petty crimes or even non-criminal activity.  Enough people on Facebook contacted her employer asking them to fire her that she lost her job.
  • An executive working for a small company in Arizona a few years ago posted a video of him being rude to a Chik-fil-A drive-through employee and criticizing her for working for such a horrible company because of the Chik-fil-A's owner's stance regarding same-sex marriage.  The man was fired within days and has been unable to find a job for two years, in spite of "learning his lesson".
  • A mom was publicly shamed on a national level for letting her daughter spend some time in a tanning booth, causing her to get sunburned.
  • The owners of a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  But telling all their friends about the bad service and encouraging them to boycott the bakery was not enough for the couple.  They had to sue the business for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the company's rejection.
These are just a few stories.  I bet you have more.  Now, I am not saying that the people who were publicly shamed were blameless.  There is no one righteous, not even one of us.  Especially not me.

I point this out because I think that being tolerant is setting the bar too low.  The Merriam Webster definition of "tolerance" that seems to apply is this:  "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own."  This is a definition that would seem to make us all nice people, if we could hold to it.  However, I think God had and continues to have a better plan:  being gracious.  The dictionary's definition of "gracious" is "marked by kindness and courtesy; marked by tact and delicacy;"   Even man's definition of grace seems a lot better than tolerance.  Isn't it better to be kind than to be indulgent?  However, God's definition of "gracious" is even better:  Graciousness is showing favor or love to those who don't deserve it, which is, basically, everyone on the planet, including me.  Two of the many examples of graciousness in the  Bible include Matthew 5:45 and Psalm 103:8-12.  Jesus tells his followers in Matthew 5:44 to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  And Psalm 103 describes a God of compassion, a God of forgiveness, a God of restoration, a God of love.  

So my goal is not to be tolerant at all.  It is to be gracious and loving toward people, asking God to help me to show His extravagant love to all people in all His ways as much as it is possible for this sin-riddled, selfish, intolerant person to do. 
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)