Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tolerance Vs. Love

Always something new to learn in India: One of my ex-students applying mehendi to my hand

Tolerance is the highest virtue in India. I know that it is a reaction to problems between religious communities, riots, etc. So we learn during our Value Education class in school that we should tolerate different religions, customs, cultures, etc. You do it your way, I do it mine. No one is better, no one is worse. Unity in diversity. All that stuff.

Tolerance is good if it means accepting difference, and not expecting everyone to be a clone of you. India is blessed with diversity. There is always something new to learn, a dish to taste, a celebration to enjoy, an insight to appreciate. If tolerance means accepting that 'different' is not always 'bad', then yay tolerance!

But is tolerance meaning 'who can say what's right or wrong, so let's all just get along' always right? (Yes, I see the problem with that question- IS there even a 'right' in most people's idea of tolerance?)

Sometimes you need a little intolerance. Evil should never be tolerated. Nobody says, "I don't agree with it personally, but everyone has to make their own choices" when they hear about rape.

So I suppose what it comes down to is what we consider 'evil'. But at least the tolerance-preachers should agree that even they don't tolerate some things. Illiteracy, poverty, inequality, injustice, dowry-deaths, female infanticide, domestic abuse, yeah, let's not tolerate those 'differences'.

The other question is- is tolerance always loving?

Christians are called to more than tolerance. Tolerance is the lowest level of coexistence. I can watch people make bad choices, hurt themselves, and 'tolerate' them. That's actually a LOT easier than love. In fact, as an introvert who hates initiating social contact, tolerance sounds awesome! It's none of my business, AND LOOK, I'M SO TOLERANT!

Many years ago when I was a child, we had a watchman who lived with his family in a small shack next to our apartment building. He had a drinking problem. One night we heard his drunken shouting and the terrified screams of his wife as he hit her.

Tolerance said "It's his family, his life. We shouldn't interfere."

Love said, in the voice of my mum to my dad, "Do something!"

Some of the men from my building went with my dad, and stopped him.

If I really love my neighbour, I want what is best for them. Of course, most people say that we don't know what's best for them. As Christians though, that's part of our faith. That Jesus IS best for them. That if Jesus is true for anyone anywhere, then Jesus is true for everyone everywhere.

So love forces me to move beyond tolerance: to gently propose the truths of Christianity to those who are open to listening, to offer to pray for those who struggle, to listen to the questioners, to guide the confused, to speak and defend the truth lovingly, even when it's easier to opt out. I do not impose, I merely propose. I may not win applause for my efforts. But love means that I'll do it anyway.

Love trumps tolerance.

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