Finding a way forward


Andy wrote me praying for healing for our country and that we might find “compassion, empathy and tolerance to be our guide forward.” I like his choice of words, and believe that if we can take on these attitudes ourselves, we will go a long way towards being part of the solution rather than adding to the problem in our communities and neighborhoods.

Compassion is a concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It’s looking on someone in a sadder state than you are and having your heart go out to them. But compassion isn’t worth a whole lot without action. Jesus had compassion for the people because they were hungry, or they were sick, or they were lost like sheep without a shepherd. In each case, Jesus did something about what He saw. He fed them, or He healed them, or He came to their defense like the woman caught in adultery.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s climbing into the shoes of someone else. It’s weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice even if you don’t have anything in particular to weep or rejoice over on your own.

“You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:34-36)

Tolerance is the ability or willingness to put up with something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one doesn’t necessarily agree with. There is a huge need for this with so much division going on right now. This is where we learn to co-exist with those who have differing views from us including those who are not Christians. Our goal is not to get everyone to think like we do, but to come alongside those who think differently and be able to walk and talk together.

“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

All three of these attitudes spring from humility — seeing others as more important than oneself. That’s a hard thing to do without the Holy Spirit in us to free us from the selfishness of only seeing our own point of view. What a boring world if everyone was like us.

As Andy said, these attitudes, exhibited by the Lord and His apostles, will help be a guide forward. Like grace turned outward, each one of these things springs from God being gracious to us, and we, in turn, having the grace to extend to others because of what He has bestowed upon us.

This entry was posted in community, diversity, grace turned outward, racism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Finding a way forward

  1. kellief4 says:

    The only part of this I have had a hard time with is “tolerate”. I feel like you can tolerate and literally not be able to stand the other person. It’s equivalent to “putting up with”. Can’t stand them, but you’ll still let them walk around. I’m not sure what other word to put there that is more positive. Co-exist is definitely better. I just can’t seem to remove the “negative” from the word “tolerate”. Maybe someone else has another thought about it. Even a visit to didn’t help!

    • “No man has a right in America to treat any other man tolerantly,
      for tolerance is the assumption of superiority”

      “Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not, no matter what their race or the color of their skin.”

      “Of all the times when civil liberties should be defended, it is now.”

      – Wendell Willkie, U.S. Statesman, Civil Rights Advocate & Activist
      1940 Republican Presidential candidate vs. FDR;
      1941 FDR’s personal representative to Britain before U.S. entry into WWII; Opposed to U.S. isolationism as well as Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor;
      1942 Recipient of the American Hebrew Medal;
      1945 NAACP headquarters named the Wendell Willkie Memorial Building

      Shortly before his death in 1944, Willkie told a friend, “If I could write my own epitaph and if I had to choose between saying, ‘Here lies an unimportant President’, or, ‘Here lies one who contributed to saving freedom at a moment of great peril’, I would prefer the latter.”

      Perhaps the word “tolerate” or “tolerance” (when referring to people) should be removed from our vocabulary and replaced with “Acceptance?” “Acknowledgement?” “Recognition?” “Solicitude?”

    • Suzan says:

      I agree about the word “tolerate.” In my mind it is negative too, but in reviewing the definition of “tolerance” on, it has a more open-minded feel to it:

      -a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
      -a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.
      -interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
      -the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

      Our words definitely matter, but our attitude toward others and the actions we take, speak even louder than words.

  2. Mark D Seguin says:

    Absolutely love this: “Our goal is not to get everyone to think like we do, but to come alongside those who think differently and be able to walk and talk together.” Amen!

  3. Bob Pusey says:

    Colossians 3:12-14 tells us to “ Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
    Over all these love.
    I think that love is a better goal than tolerance, it covers a multitude of sins ( both in ourselves and others). And it keeps us from looking down on those that we tolerate/put up with. How can we feel superior when we’ve failed so miserably to live up to God’s standards of peace and justice for all.
    Also , “clothing ourselves” in this way is good way to prepare for that pool party that John’s granddaughter is having.

  4. Sandie says:

    I know I am late in coming to this discussion (away for 2 weeks with NO social media), but I have ambivalent feelings about how the word is used now. To be considered ‘tolerant’ in today’s society means you not only accept a person as valid, but all of his/her actions, beliefs etc. are accepted as valid, no matter how wrong. In my mind and heart, I accept you as an individual created in the image of God, and therefore I am honorbound to afford you the highest respect. I even have to respect your right to be wrong. However, my tolerance is not extended to anything I know is wrong. I have learned, in most cases, to “agree to disagree,” and find the common ground we can work together on. A fine line to walk, and I can only accomplish that with the Spirit guiding and leading my every step.

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