A popular campaign that many churches are promoting in our day is titled: “I Love My Church.” How many churches do you know who may pass out bumper stickers or T-shirts with this slogan, but in reality, they merely tolerate one another?
The culture today is swimming in a sea of tolerance. The politically correct behavior today is centered on tolerance and we’re commanded to tolerate everyone and every idea that comes our way. Interestingly enough, many Christians in the church stand directly opposed to that type of ideology and rightly so. However, many of the same Christians are unwilling to tolerate false doctrines and cultural movements, but they want to merely tolerate their fellow church members rather than engaging in the hard work of love.
One of the greatest errors of many church members today is the idea that God is perfectly happy with us merely tolerating one another and refusing to love one another in the life of the church. God’s Word clearly teaches his people to love one another in a way that involves more than tolerance and casual passivity in the hallway of the local church building.
Love Is Commanded
In multiple places in the Bible (Rom. 12:10; Eph. 4:2; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:11-12), we see God’s children being called to engage in the hard and often messy work of love toward fellow Christians. Love is nowhere in God’s Word considered an option worthy of consideration in the church. God drives his point home with crystal clarity that he has called his people to a life and ministry of love rather than mere tolerance.
Far too many people in the local church live as if 1 John 4:7 reads as follows:
Beloved, let us tolerate one another, for tolerance is from God, and whoever tolerates has been born of God and knows God.
While most Christians would stand boldly before the person who would dare to change God’s Word and pervert the holy Scriptures, but often they live in such a manner that seems to change love into tolerance. We would never do this with a pen, but we do this with our attitudes. We would never promote such an agenda in the world of academics, but we often promote it in the world of our local churches by how we live out 1 John 4:7.
Love Requires Sacrifice
It is impossible to love others without some means of sacrifice. For instance, in Romans 12:10, the apostle Paul writes, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” When Paul insists that the Christians in Rome should outdo one another in showing honor, this type of behavior will be one of sacrifice. It may not be a financial sacrifice (although it could be), it will certainly involve some form of sacrifice such as time, resources, or talents.
To the church at Galatia, Paul said:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
In serving one another, you sacrifice some of yourself, some of your time, some of your money, some of your energy, and you pour into the life of another person. You can’t serve someone that you don’t love. Have you ever tried to serve someone out of a fake love? Your heart wasn’t into it and perhaps the only reason you did it was in order to appear holy or to avoid showing your real dislike for another person or group. True love requires a measure of sacrifice and that is never an easy thing. Pride is natural and sacrifice is not only abnormal—but difficult in many ways.
Love Honors God
When we consider the fact that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that God demonstrated his love for fallen sinners in a sacrificial manner (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16), to engage in the labor of love and the lifestyle of love is to genuinely pursue God. As Christians, we know that we’re called to be holy—in essence we’re called to be like God. Have you ever considered the reality that we are never more like God than when we are engaging in true love for others? The opposite is likewise true. To refuse to love others is to refuse to be like God.
Tolerance may be something that the culture teaches, but if we genuinely want to be like Jesus and to pursue holiness as followers of Christ—we must go well beyond the borders of tolerance. We are called to a life of love and that’s not an easy thing.
John 13:34 — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.