Take news stories from any region in the world and you may encounter a call for more tolerance, where religion, race, and many other factors are concerned. Intolerance seems to hold a spot in every newscast, and in many cases it’s at the root of conflict that leads to unrest and violence in communities and among nations. Tolerance is raised as a virtue that can remove barriers that divide people from one another.
But however noble tolerance – “permitting differences to coexist” – may be, what if people were to go a step further and foster the desire to love? To love has a much different meaning than to tolerate. One dictionary definition of love begins, “an intense, affectionate concern for another person.” In a theological context, it means “God’s benevolence and mercy toward man” (and conversely, man’s devotion to or adoration of God).
In our own hearts, where we may initially find tolerance, we can begin to expand to love, the genuine and perfect love we are designed to share with one another.
The First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” as recorded in Exodus, is expanded in the book of Deuteronomy: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (6:5). Jesus expanded that law to its utmost with this statement: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39). His message transcended political climates and remains today as timeless wisdom.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science Church, wrote, “God is Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 2). This definition of God is recorded in the Bible (see I John 4:8), and it’s acknowledged throughout many faiths as the fundamental nature of God. It brings to mind all the unconditional and universal qualities of love we require: generosity, mercy, compassion, goodness, benevolence, forgiveness, stability, moral courage, and strength, to name a few.
Although motives for tolerance may be virtuous, the conscious efforts to love one another will always be what destroy hatred and prejudice. Tolerance cannot replace love, nor can it necessarily promote it. Love does not exclude discipline or morality; rather, love nurtures them. Love offers genuine respect on all sides. In this way we can be living examples of love rather than allowing tolerance to shield prejudice.
A good first step is to love and accept one another as equals. The more we accept that God is Love, the more natural this becomes. We can love because God loves. And knowing this enables us to broaden our views of one another, helping promote peace in our neighborhoods and in our world.