By Louis Wade
Bob Marley’s question, “Is this love, is this love, is this love that I’m feeling?” is a relevant question for today. My father used to joke that “love is a feeling that you feel when you feel a feeling”; and because Love is a feeling, people use the word frequently and for many different reasons. Since the English language uses one word to describe this feeling, we end up “loving our wife”, like we “love our food”, like we “love our dogs”, like we “love our politics”. Oh for the days of the Greek when there were three different words to describe Love.
Recently, the word love has been closely associated with the word tolerance. To tolerate means “to put up with”, or “to allow something that is bad or unpleasant to exist”. Certainly, there IS a relationship between love and tolerance. Indeed, true love demands tolerance, but tolerance is not a perpetual state of being because true love also demands change of wrong behaviour. In other words, true love will tolerate a particular unwelcomed behavior, but for a period of time, to allow for change. During the period of tolerance, there is dialogue, and certainly pointing out of the wrong and the need for change.
For example, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship could argue that she is staying in the relationship because of love. Regular beatings, followed by passionate make-up, play out in front of confused children. Staying in an abusive relationship may masquerade as love, but it really is tolerance. Where do we get the idea that if we love someone we should tolerate their wrongdoing? Clearly, that type of argument is flawed. It is more likely, that in the name of love what they really are exhibiting is fear or low self esteem. They are in actuality tolerating a ticking time-bomb.
What about a dying church holding on to a nonfunctioning spiritual leader? Fear or hesitance to point out deficiencies and address the situation can easily masquerade as “Love”. Not wanting to hurt feelings, one may even use love as the reason to let things continue without intervention. Is this love or cowardice? It is the latter. True love demands confrontation; especially when the result can be death. Tolerance becomes simply a cover for inaction.
And what about tolerance in the Political Arena? Because of love for a political party, many voters tolerate wrong behavior and corrupt practices. One individual was overheard saying, “If somebody will take away my land, let it be my party.” A person’s support and their love for the party could render them silent in the face of obvious corruption. Love for political power over the best interest of a nation could cause leaders to tolerate corrupt practices of their compatriots. Love of power or special privilege can actually parade as “love for Nation”. This is not love. It is tolerance for a culture of corruption.
A son dresses regularly in woman’s drag and embraces a new gender. A parent using tolerance as the reason, spends money to buy him dresses in the name of love and tolerance. An adult watches a young one who is in a vulnerable stage of his life, struggling with identity, and instead of offering wise, adult experience and counsel, pats the boy on the back and says, “ be yourself”! This at a time when he clearly does not know himself, and is seeking to find himself. How can this be love? If you truly love someone, you would never see them embrace a deadly lifestyle and condone it, much less encourage and enable it. In this case, true love does produce tolerance, but one that is neither complacent or accepting of wrong. Instead, true tolerance is sustained by that person’s willingness to change. It is fuelled when that person takes active steps to do things right!
A brief study into the source of all love, God, shows the perfect balance between love and tolerance. God’s love is unconditional and everlasting. God is not intolerant. God’s tolerance, however, is conditional so it lasts only for a season.
He said in Genesis 6: “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh”. Ask Adam and Eve who God loved but could not tolerate their disobedience. He threw them out of Eden. Ask those who lived before the flood; he loved them, but because they loved evil, their lifespan was cut short. When their wickedness could no longer be tolerated, God sent the flood and started fresh with Noah and his family. And in the end of all things God will separate those who chose to LOVE and obey him, from those who tolerate sin.
Our worldview is slowly being shaped by liberal philosophy which replaces Love with tolerance, deteriorating to the point where “If you are intolerant of someone’s behavior, it means you do NOT love them.” In fact it is now called HATE; an attempt to bully people into accepting that which one knows is wrong. They must not change their behavior, YOU must change instead by becoming tolerant!
The conclusion of the matter then, is that tolerance today has become the soft sell for wrong things: moral, spiritual, cultural and even political. But where there is TRUE LOVE, tolerance for wrong must eventually wear thin; because while true love lasts, tolerance runs out.