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Ignore the Pain?

April 29th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Toleration or love? Are they the same thing? Actually, no they are not. We, as Christians are called to do much more than simply tolerate others. We are called to love them. Read or listen to find out more....

Easter 4B - Good Shepherd Sunday - "Tolerate or Love?" - 1 John 3:16-24 4/29/12 Last week Beautiful Savior had its quarterly blood drive. I like that our church provides an opportunity to donate blood so easily. I like the idea of helping someone I have never met by giving up a little bit of what I have… I hate the part where they jab me with that stupid needle. And then I have to sit there while the volunteer taking my blood asks me again and again if I am feeling alright. I want to point out that, no, in fact I was just stabbed, and am now having my blood sucked out of my body, and it doesn’t feel very good. But I don’t say any of that, because my mother, a nurse, used to tease me all the time about what a big baby I was when it came to pain. Then she would laugh with the other nurses about what a low tolerance for pain men had. It used to make me a little mad when she did that, probably because I knew she was right. But I was thinking about that as I gave blood last week, and I came to a conclusion. I am glad I have a low tolerance for pain. Think about it: being able to tolerate pain doesn’t take any of the pain away, it just means you can pretend it doesn’t hurt for longer. I don’t particularly want that. Pain is our bodies’ way of telling us something is wrong. Ignore pain for too long and it has the potential of making things much worse than if you had simply addressed the problem when it first started. Tolerating pain can be dangerous. Of course, sometimes you don’t have any other option. Sometimes you have pain, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The best you can do is ignore it, and try and live your life pretending that it isn’t there. Tolerance is this world’s answer to the many problems that plague us in this life. Our culture tells us that the very best thing we can do is to stay out of each other’s way. We have to tolerate people. We have to ignore the things they do. We have to live our lives without interfering with anyone else right to choose to do whatever they want to do. The world tells us that we need to tolerate abortion. Keep our noses out of it. Ignore it. When people we know have homosexual relationships, we are encouraged to tolerate it. To pretend that nothing is wrong, that what is going on is perfectly natural. When someone close to us says that they think all religion is basically the same, we are supposed to respect their freedom to choose. Either you kill each other, or you coexist. This world shoves tolerance down our throat, as though there are only two options. Either we hate gay people, or we tolerate them. We can either shun women who get abortions, or we can tolerate them. We can go to war with anyone who doesn’t know about Jesus, or we can tolerate them. Tolerance is the best this world can come up with. This world is so lost in sin that ignoring the pain and sin of others seems like it is the only solution. And that is pitiful. Tolerance falls so depressingly short of what God tells us is possible. We are not called to tolerate each other. We are called to love each other. “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us.”(1 John 3:23). Not ignore each other, not put up with each other, not tolerate each other; love each other. It makes sense that a world that does not trust in the one true God would so easily overlook love, because “love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16). We are the redeemed children of God, we know Jesus and what He did for us. We know love. I think there is a huge difference between love and tolerance. Tolerance is easy; you literally don’t have to do anything. It takes no action. Just leave people alone and you have tolerated them. Love actually takes work. Love is an action. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) Love means actually caring about people. Love means actually caring for people. When you love, you have to realize that it is going to cost you your time and energy. We get a great picture of what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13.Love is patient. I used to think that meant when I fell in love I would be automatically given all the patience I would ever need. Ha. It means you have to be patient in order to love. Love means you are going to have to do things even when those things are inconvenient. Love means giving up a Saturday you really wanted to spend in your sweat pants just to provide a moment of comfort to someone you’ve never met, who might never even thank you. Love means taking money out of an already tight budget to feed people who don’t have budget to stretch. Do you think it’s ok to tolerate hunger? Is that the example Christ set for us? Another example of love from 1 Corinthians: being kind. It sounds so simple, just be kind, but how many times have you found yourself just plain old being mean to someone. Bringing up past misdeeds in an argument just to get leverage, telling other people why they shouldn’t be friends with this person. Have you ever not told someone something you know they needed to know, because you were afraid they would get angry with you? The old adage “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” is just another form of tolerance. The truth is, you can say something nice. You are supposed to say something nice. We are called to speak gently with each other. We are commanded not to slander people behind their backs, but to build up their reputation, and put them in the best light possible. We are called to speak the truth in love. Sometimes we justify being unkind by claiming that we are simply telling the truth. We are not supposed to delight in causing pain. Our job is to love, and telling the truth is one way of doing that. That is why we hold so firm to what we believe. We are not being judgmental when we explain that living against God’s commands is dangerous. God wants us to tell people the truth. Lying to people, pretending that nothing is wrong, that isn’t love. And so we tell people that the things they do really matter. We share God’s Law with a sinful world, because we are commanded to love. The Law is God’s way of telling us that something is wrong. It shows us our sins. It shows us our need for a savior. We don’t go around telling people that they are wrong out of a sense of superiority or pride. We share the truth because it saves people’s lives. And this goes much further than just the big issues that we struggle with as a society. Tolerance creeps into our lives in very subtle and personal ways. Do you have a boss that drives you nuts? How about your spouse; do you cringe and change the subject when they say “we need to talk about our budget”? Is there a person at your school who teases you so much that you want to cry? Is there a coach or teacher that you just don’t think very much of? Do some of the people in this room just rub you the wrong way? Do you just tolerate them? Do you think that is all God expects from you? It’s not. Continue to tolerate people, and nothing will ever get better. Ignoring the problems in our relationships will just cause those problems to fester and get worse, until the relationship dies. That’s not what God commands. That’s not what God does. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God could have simply tolerated them. Sin destroyed the relationship between God and man. The damage was done. He could have just ignored us. Let us dwell in our sin, gone off to hang out with the angels. It’s what we deserved. Imagine how short the Bible would have been. “For God so tolerated the world that He left us to our own devices”. But God does not tolerate sin. He tells us that He loves us too much to just ignore this terrible disease that is killing us. He sent His Son Jesus into the middle of this sinful world, to feel what we feel, to know the pain and suffering and temptation that this world has to offer. To feel the full brunt of sin that wasn’t His, and endure death. And our Gospel lesson today reminds us that it is because of love that He laid down His life, and not only that, but took it up again. (John 10:17). That is the love that God has for us. He refuses to tolerate our pain. He does not ignore our prayers. He won victory over death, to fix the relationship that we broke, so that we could live forever with Him in paradise. Listen to what 1 John 4 has to say about love: “ This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. God’s love does things. It has an effect. Through the love of God we are changed, we are cleansed, we are renewed, and we are restored. And through His Holy Spirit we are empowered to share that love with others. Genuinely love them. Because of Jesus we are able to serve, to care for and about others, to provide for their needs, to feed them, to speak the truth to them, to be gentle with them. We can love as we have been loved. We don’t tolerate sinners. That isn’t what God wants from us. We love sinners, sinners like homosexuals and women who have failed to honor life in the past, and Muslim, Mormons, and Atheists. Sinners like the people at late/early service, sinners like me, and you. God loves you. He taught you how to love. Go and love.

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1 5:51 p.m. on September 12, 2016

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