Thursday, May 9, 2013

Beyond Tolerance

"And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32
(KJV)

It was a lazy afternoon.
The windows were open, letting in a soft, cool, refreshing breeze.
Everything was quiet...and peaceful.


I love times like that.

Zach came in and started opening up his heart
relaying a story about something that happened the day before.
It seemed to be really bothering him and weighing heavy on his mind.

We had done some shopping...my favorite kind...
looking for bargains...
which included a stop at the Goodwill store on the way home. :~)

"Mama, I walked up to the register to ask the cashier the price
of the backpack I wanted.
There was an old lady in line in front of me.
She was moving real slow,
and she gave the cashier her Goodwill points card twice.
It was like she forgot she had already given it to her.
The cashier seemed really irritated and wasn't too nice to the old lady."

Zachary seemed very disturbed.
He can't stand injustice...
and he has a deep love for the elderly.

"What did the cashier do, Zach...
to make you think she wasn't so nice to her?"

"I don't know.  
I could just tell she didn't like it.
At the end, when the poor, old lady was trying to 
put her change back in her wallet,
she kept standing there...
so she could lay it on a flat surface.
The cashier just wasn't too nice about it.
You could tell she was just tolerating her.
Do you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, Zach, I know what you mean."

"Mama, we shouldn't just tolerate people.
We should be nice.
It isn't just about tolerating people, you know?
We need to go beyond just tolerating."

"Zach, you're right."

My mind went back to so many instances in which I 
have been completely guilty of "just tolerating" someone else's behavior....
when I didn't make much of an effort to hide my frustration 
over the way they tried my patience or
when I made a very small or no attempt to make them feel better
about their inadequacies.

How many times have I done that?

How many times has someone else needed to be more-than-average tolerant with me?
How many instances have I exhausted the patience of another?

I have felt the sting of being made to feel "less than"
because of my own incapability and inability to...
move fast enough,
catch on quickly,
or meet the expectations of others.
So have you, no doubt....
maybe more times than you care to remember.
We have all been on the receiving end of another's "just-toleration".

It is hard to remember what that feels like 
when we are on the opposite side of the counter....or situation....
waiting on someone else....
when we are the one being tried and tested by another's inadequacy.


What would Jesus do?

It all boils down to re-phrasing the question....
what did Jesus do?
We have many examples of how He treated others,
His actions,
reactions,
and interactions....
are recorded in the first four books of the New Testament.

How precious are the red letters in my Bible!
Those are the ones that stand out most to me.
I love the Word of God...every shred of it.
But, those red letters.....well, there is something beyond precious
about seeing THE WORD's audibly-spoken words....
visibly....right there in red and white.

When Jesus walked the earth, He was God in the flesh.
He was the walking Word...a living, breathing example of Who and What God is.
"And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth."
John 1:14

To know what Jesus would do....in our situations and trying scenes of life...
all we have to do is dig in and find out what Jesus did do.

There is no more interesting reading known to man
than to trace the daily footprints of Jesus Christ
so vividly portrayed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Upon close examination, you will find that He never made anyone feel inferior.
Even though every living, breathing person was....
far beneath Him.

He was the Son of God.
He was and is God.
One of the three that comprises the Trinity.
So, without question, He was and is superior....to all.

He had every right to make everyone He met feel inferior...and less than...
because, in reality, they were.

It is one thing to study and explore the accounts in the Word of God
of Jesus and His life on earth and come to the conclusion that He went beyond toleration
with every person, no matter who they were or what they did.

It is quite another to find out for yourself...how Jesus really is.

I have come to know Him on the most personal of levels,
and I can tell you first-hand that He has never made me feel inferior...
even though I fall so short,
even though I have failed so many times,
even though I am so desperately human.
I know in my heart that I have tried and tested His patience and toleration
to the point of breaking more times than I would like to admit,
and I have found through the experiences of life that He is way beyond tolerant.

Anyone else would have given up....way before now....
a long time ago.
They would have thrown up their hands in total frustration,
tossed me on the scrap heap of life,
and walked away shaking their head and mumbling about how they have never
seen such an intolerable mess.

Not so with Jesus, my Lord and Savior.
He doesn't just tolerate me....
He loves me.

And He loves you, my friend.
It doesn't matter what you've done,
where you've been,
or how long you've been there.
It makes no difference how many times you have started out with the very best of intentions,
only to give up a short distance down the road.
He isn't counting your failures.
He is storing your tears....in His bottle.
(Psalm 56:8)
He has forgiven you every time you have asked.
He has never closed His ears to you...no matter how many times you have prayed.
He has opened the door every time you have sought asylum.
In His arms, you have always found a safe place to fall....
and you always will.

He isn't going to change.
Nothing you do will ever exhaust the love in His heart for you.
He sees beyond the rubbish....to the heart inside of you...
that really wants to do what is right...
even though you don't always take that path.

So, I ask you...and myself....this....
who, in turn, are we "just tolerating"?
Who gets on our last nerve?
Who pushes our buttons...to the limit....time after time?
Our spouse, child(ren), parent(s), boss, co-worker, sibling,
grand-parent, aunt, or uncle?
Our pastor, neighbor, room-mate, or fellow church-goer?
Who have you hurt in reaction to their "intolerable behavior"?
Who have I?

Ouch!

When Jesus was here, a living, breathing, walking, talking reality of God in the flesh,
He didn't "just tolerate" anyone.
Even those in His closest, most intimate circle.
Even those who didn't deserve anything more than mere toleration.
Even Peter.
Remember how outspoken he was?
Remember how gung-ho?
How over-zealous?
How he eventually swore and declared he didn't even know Jesus?
What about Judas?
The greedy, thieving traitor....you know...
the one who would eventually lead Jesus' enemies to Him...
so they could torture, whip, spit upon, slap, mutilate, beat to a pulp,
and eventually crucify His earthly body?
Jesus knew what was going to happen.
He knew what Peter and Judas and all of the others were going to do,
long before they did it....
since the moment they were born.
Yet, He loved them...He worked with them...
He gave them every possible opportunity....
to change and grow and mature and learn from Him as He walked by their side day after day.
He poured Himself into the very ones He knew would ultimately fail and abuse His sacrifice.

That isn't just toleration, my friend.
That is way beyond "putting up with" someone.

He knew all about them.
He knows all about us, too.
He didn't just tolerate them.
He doesn't just tolerate you....or me...either.
He goes beyond that....
way beyond.
He deeply loves the most intolerable.



Now shouldn't we go and do the same....for each other?




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