There's an awful lot of talk about love today. "Love wins." The Beatles words still ring out today, "Love is all you need." Our world promotes tolerance as love. If you truly love me than you will tolerate what I do, believe, say. If you love me than you'll tolerate my lifestyle, my choices, my behavior. Toleration is now the new norm in pop American culture. A wise person once remarked, "There is no such thing as sin anymore in American society, the only sin is to call something a sin." In other words the only sin is to be intolerant of another person's choices, behavior and life style. The truly sad part is the false analogy that since God is love, and love is tolerant, than God is tolerant. Matthew tells us that the 2nd greatest commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is falsely applied that if one doesn't tolerate something, than one truly doesn't love others as God commands one. Christians get accused of this all the time, if you call a behavior sinful, than you must NOT be following the Bible as the Bible commands one to love and love is tolerance.
To God, love is something far more than tolerance. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of love is apathy. Apathy for us Midwesterners is a politie way of telling someone else to "Shove off," I'm too busy for what you have to say. Luther correctly identified the opposite of love, Greed! Luther says, "Greed is neglect of God and neighbor." Luther's terminology is spot on, for the greatest two Commandments are to Love God and to Love others. The opposite of love is neglect. It's rather easy to be tolerant or accepting of another person's choices, and yet neglect them! Toleration takes very little effort, besides an affirming nod, gesture or action. To God, Love is much more deeper, intricate, special and powerful than tolerance.
Love God style: St. Paul tells us in those words we usually hear at weddings, from 1 Corinthians; that love is patient, kind, not self seeking, not easily angered, it doesn't keep records of the wrong, love protects and hopes, it isn't boastful or rude. That's quite a lot. Replace love with Jesus and it fits, put your name and my name in place of love and well..... you get the idea. Love God's style is a get my hands dirty type of love. It is investing myself in with and for another person. Love God style is agape. Agape love that is usually characterized is known as unconditional, that's true, but there's more. In the Greek language the example is two people walking toward each other on a path that holds just one person. Agape love is shown as a person steps off the path and in humility allows the other person to step by. Agape love is sacrificial, it means getting my hands dirty, it means looking out for others, it's hard work, many times it is unappreciated, a loving person is often time taken advantage of and used. That is love, Jesus loved us with that type of love. Love that held him on the cross as greater love has no one that to lay down his life for his friend. Jesus loved us with that love, "While we were yet sinners,he died for us." Jesus loves us no matter what we do, say or even believe. We are his children for God is of love and "For God so loved the world." God's love wasn't shown in feelings or emotions or sentiment, but love was placed in real action. Jesus, true man and God who came down to earth and live the perfect life and die for us on the cross. Out of pure love for us,that's sheer grace! Love God style is action, care, empathy and getting in the dirt and mess of lives. He loves us with this love and with this love we're invited to pray as a child to their loving father, "Our Father...."
Now to tolerance. Tolerance many times is not love. In love, as a father, I never, nor should tolerate sin or bad behavior from my children. I don't tolerate my confirmation students doing a sub par job. Presenting a sermon half way is tolerating laziness and robbing hearers of God's true Word. There are things we can tolerate, onions on pizza and burgers and those who root for teams that are my arch rivals. We can tolerate the types of cars we buy or when we open our Christmas presents. We can tolerate if we would prefer Taco Bell, Taco John or Chipolte. What can not be tolerated is those things God considers sinful. How do we know this? In love,God gave us the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given in love, given to us in a covenant. They protect and tell us specifically how to love God and others. Notice the word tolerance is not in these. To Luther, the Ten Commandments capture the heart of God, His love for us. Many times love is most beautiful when it doesn't tolerate those things considered sinful and harmful by God. These sharp words are rare, but true, "Do you love me enough to tell me I'm wrong?" Love rejoices in the truth. Love leads one to repent to see true love the once crucified, Risen Christ.
Let us love one another as God has first loved us and called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light...His love shown in Christ Jesus. Remember,Love is not a 9 letter word, but really a 5 letter word, "Jesus!"