The first thing I saw when I entered the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem was a quote that has haunted me ever since: “A country is not just what it does; it is also what it tolerates.” (Kurt Tucholsky) The longer I consider this, the more convinced I am that what is true for countries is also true for individuals.

We are often judged by what we do. Behavior indicates priorities, but we can hide the true intent of our hearts behind proper behavior. I can do the “right” thing for a whole host of reasons, not all of them noble. Evil men can do good things. Good people are not necessarily godly people.

We may tolerate what we oppose that others will eventually agree with us or just to avoid conflict, but what we tolerate also indicates our priorities. How do we as Christians draw the line between respecting those who disagree with us, and refusing to compromise on the things that should never be tolerated? When does our toleration become enabling?

Jesus tolerated questions and sinners. He tolerated disciples that were slow to learn and crowds that were more interested in his miracles than his teaching. He was patient with the weakness of those who came to him for help. But he didn’t tolerate deceit in the hearts of the Pharisees. He did not condone the money changers who cheated God. He didn’t negotiate with Satan, and he never compromised his holiness in order to keep peace with the religious authorities.

What we do, what we tolerate, should always reflect that fact that we belong to God. If I tolerate what dishonors God, I have broken the first commandment. God doesn’t necessarily call us to keep peace or compromise holiness; he calls us to love and obey. Sometimes that means taking a stand that is unpopular. We are defined by what we do and what we tolerate. May both define you as a beloved child of God.

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