When I was a music teacher in California, my fellow teachers and I spent a day of inservice at The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. It's a famous museum that is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust while working through education and exposure to instill an attitude of tolerance toward all people. Only last night did I realize what a low standard the name of that museum sets.
I happened to use the word "tolerate" at the dinner table, and Ava asked me what it meant. So I explained that it means "to put up with something that you don't like very much." When applied to our reactions to the people around us, tolerate is not a very lofty goal. I can still hate a person while tolerating them. A less realistic, more difficult attitude would be to ...appreciate. To appreciate the people that are different from me would mean recognizing value or inherent beauty in humanity, even when it encompasses something I could not or would not be. Appreciating the differences of others implies a freedom from judgement (and an abundance of humility!) and is much more difficult than tolerating. However, I'm sure we all agree that "tolerate" is definitely better than the historical option often applied to those different than us...annihilate.
When I read Nouwen I am often reminded, through his poignant descriptions, that I am the Beloved of God. When Nouwen talks about this he points out that in becoming aware that God's reaction toward me is passionate love and pursuit, I must become aware of that being God's reaction to everyone else, too.
Tolerate. Appreciate. Annihilate. What choices do I make every day with the people around me? Do I foster hate without acting on it? Do I see the beauty inside each person that exists simply because God made them? Do I intentionally or unintentionally crush those who are unlike me because I feel (or want to feel) superior?
Maybe I'm being too hard on the word "tolerate," but the longer I think about it, the more limiting it seems. I'm just wondering if maybe God desires a higher standard of showing love to others because of the love he has lavished on me.