There is this particular idealistic way of seeing the world that has been quite popular for some time now. You might have seen the bumper stickers on cars, touting the revolutionary idea of what true harmony can look like. It lies in the idea of being able to "coexist" with people of different religions, backgrounds, etc.
And it is not a bad ideal to dream.
But I feel like we should dream bigger.
Coexist sort of gives us this sense that we should at least tolerate each other. And that might be a huge step for many, as it seems near impossible for others.
What does tolerate really mean, though? That I could talk bad about them behind their back, but at least I am civil when we are together? One thing is for sure: tolerance is a far cry from what I dream about. And I am not alone.
Jesus called us to love one another, and whether you believe He was the Savior or not; He died on a cross, Himself believing He was doing it for all mankind - including those that were persecuting Him and future versions of his assailants. And He did it to prove that His love transcended all human cause for hatred and isolation. He died for your neighbor that keeps leaving trash on your yard. He suffered for that brother who keeps making fun of you. He even died for those that really hurt you, with hope for their conversion...
And I do believe He is our savior for many reasons, one of which is because all His closest friends, and even those who never met Him, died to spread His message of salvation. You don't die for a lie, and you don't die for people or an ideal you don't love. Going against your very instinctual nature requires something so potent, it can only be explained by the word love.
I used to think it was enough to tolerate. To tolerate strained family relationships, or friendships. That if I had to see them, I would struggle just to avoid saying something that could cause a fight. I thought this was my "good guy" struggle.
But as I started to learn more about what God asks of me, I learned that I must love others the way He loves...and well, if I like to think that Jesus cares about my trials and tribulations, helps me through them, and celebrates my achievements - shouldn't that be what I do for those same people that mostly just irritate me?
Because that's mostly what it is. Most of our strained relationships are simply due to irritations - they are arrogant, they are judge-y, they make you feel bad about yourself, they are negative, they are...
One day, I was sitting at lunch with my sister and we were talking. After years of growing apart, I felt like we were finally growing together. And it dawned on me that it was because of a sudden revelation I had a long time back, during an argument with her.
I had declared that she always had to argue against what I said. And she said, I always judged her and made her feel bad about herself!
I was like, wait a minute, are we seriously talking about the same person?
No way! I was, in fact, not the perfect friend, or perfect example of a human being! Aside from being a humbling experience, it quickly freed me from the chains I placed on others to be perfect for me as well. Love them where they are, and don't assume they are beneath you - because they might just teach you a thing or two about being a good person!
So going back to tolerance - it was when my sister and I went beyond simply getting along, and truly experiencing friendship and honesty, tempered with grace and compassion, that our relationship thrived. And this taught me that even though I still mess up, just like she has grace to be patient with me, I must and will do the same for her.
Now expand that just a bit. To like. Everyone.
But the only way it will happen, is if we start in our own homes. Our families, our communities. Our frenemies.
Because we have no place criticizing the violence and isolation so rampant in our culture if we ourselves isolate and simply tolerate instead of love.
It's not the best we can do.
And to fight the pain and brokenness of this world, we must fight the good fight with our very best: