2001-04-28 - Sometimes Tolerance Is Not Enough
I have read a lot lately about how we need to be "tolerant" of people who are different from us. Let me be clear from the beginning here; I am not referring to toleration of sin. I am referring to "toleration" of people who are of different races than ourselves, people who are very poor, people who are overweight, have disfiguring diseases etc. Toleration is a beginning; it is certainly preferable to prejudice. But it's only a beginning.
When Jesus looks at us, He looks past the "surface stuff" and straight through to the real us.
Galatians 3:28 (RSV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
If I asked you, "do you think other people are as valuable to God as you are?" I bet your answer would be an instantaneous "yes, of course!" But what if I asked you another question? Do you ever find yourself uttering phrases like "poor white trash" (my personal least favorite),"rednecks" or joking about someone's weight? Do you laugh when people tell jokes about some of these things? If you don't, that is a good first step. But it's not enough. It should bother us when people are mocked for being "rednecks" or called "trash." The woman who weighs 500 pounds, the family living in a tattered trailer, the man who is a blue-collar worker and drives an old pickup truck, the mentally ill woman on the street who talks to herself or shrieks out obscenities - inside each person is the image of God. And the image of God in each of those persons deserves respect.
In addition, we cheat ourselves if we don't see these people as individuals. Inside these people are some intelligent, compassionate, gifted and interesting people - who can enrich our lives. The next time you hear someone made fun of because of his color or they way she looks, remind yourself that this is a person who is precious to God, a person for whom Christ died.