Charity (guest contributor) talks about what it really means to love a friend and the difference between tolerance and acceptance.
Everyone wants to be accepted. We all want to feel as if we are loved and tolerated, even if we aren’t perfect. If we are accepted by others, maybe we can learn to accept ourselves.
“Acceptance” is a popular word these days, along with “tolerance.” Both are often aimed at Christians, with the implication that not agreeing with something makes them hateful toward their fellow man. But that is not always the case.
The following story highlights this. Let’s say I have a friend who is a chronic thief. She wants me to accept that she just can’t help stealing things. But I know that sooner or later, being a thief is going to get her caught, and she will go to prison and suffer. Is it more loving for me to accept her as she is, or to want what is best for her? What is best for her is not to accept herself as a thief. I can love her whether or not she ever steals another thing, but I can’t support her theft.
There is a big difference between acceptance, which means coming to terms with the fact that this or that person will never change, and being tolerant of their flaws. I don’t love it that a friend of mine is living with her boyfriend. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love her, and spend time with her. She knows where I stand. I cannot “accept” her lifestyle, because it goes against what God asks me to believe (that fornication is wrong)… but she is not a Christian. And the Bible makes it plain that we must hold Christians to a higher standard than the masses. Sometimes, we must “tolerate” sin in unbelievers, even though we may not like it. But we cannot, and should not, “accept” it in those who profess the Christian faith, because God calls us to a higher standard. That my friend lives with her boyfriend disappoints me, but it doesn’t surprise me. She is not a Christian, so she is not to be held to a Christian standard. It doesn’t mean I accept it; it just does not give me the right to shun her for it.
Among those who profess the Christian faith, we cannot be tolerant or accepting of sin. But when it comes to sin among nonbelievers, we should want what is best for them but also be mindful that if it were not for the grace of God, there would we be also. We should never be “comfortable” with sin, or “condoning” of it, or even “encouraging in it,” but Jesus spent His time with sinners; firstly, because everyone was a sinner in comparison to Him, and secondly, because they needed Him most. So where does that leave us?
We must hold to our faith and value system above all things. We cannot be supportive of anything that goes against it. But we must also remember that each sinner is in need of a savior, and we may be the closest thing to Jesus that they ever see. Is that face going to be loving and gentle, or full of righteous indignation? Are we going to hate the sin, but love the sinner as Christ did? Or are we going to go to the other extreme, and be accepting of everything?
It is hard to love the sinner and hate the sin when it comes to the Body of Christ. In fact, most people won’t put up with it. For them, it is all or none. Either you support them, or it means you don’t love them. But, sometimes loving them means not accepting their sin. Jesus didn’t. God doesn’t. But wanting what is best for someone doesn’t mean accepting them. It means loving them.
Even if that love can be tough.
More about Charity –
Charity is a twenty-something who spends most of her time writing — for work and for fun. She loves costume dramas, Siamese cats (and every other kind), and obsessing over history. She is currently the editor of Femnista, an online magazine aimed at young women. You can read it and more at www.charitysplace.com.
Art Credit: Pinterest