It seems progressive Christians are often being attacked by other Christians for our “tolerance.” I don’t know about my fellow clergy, but I don’t recall that I have ever used the word tolerant in a sermon. I haven’t applauded tolerance as a virtue, and I don’t plan to do so.
Tolerance sounds to me like passive allowance—a weak, half-hearted form of acceptance.
I don’t see Jesus tolerating the lepers. I see Jesus touching them. I don’t see Jesus tolerating the children. I see Jesus gathering them around him, saying “Let them come.” I don’t see Jesus tolerating the woman caught in adultery. I see him saving her life. I see him telling her accusers to examine their own lives first.
I don’t see the early church tolerating the Gentile. I see the church deciding to welcome the Gentile fully into the fold.
When we progressives say, “All are welcome,” when we claim that God’s embrace is wide, when we believe God is love, we mean something far more radical than the tolerance of which we are being accused.
If we are to give an account to God of our actions and beliefs, let us hope we are not tolerant, merely tolerant. Let us hope we can say:
We are embracing. We are understanding. We are warmth and hospitality. We are compassion, and we are kindness. We are generosity and hope, and we are peace. We are listening. We are justice, active justice.
Tolerant doesn’t work for us. We are more dangerous than tolerance.
We are the hands and feet of Christ. We are truth, set free from prejudice. We are heart, and we are wisdom. We are vision and understanding. We are love, giant God-sized love.