In my last appointment in Hanover, there were many Salvationists who lived in Germany who were refugees from war-torn places in Africa. Several of them were from the Congo. Their status as refugees was precarious, to say the least.
One of our soldiers, who was Congolese by birth, but had the fortune to become a German citizen, had some relatives who lived in his town, about a half hour south of us. They were all soldiers in The Salvation Army, but were not permitted to travel to Hanover for church services because it meant that they would have to leave their Bezirk (similar to a county).
They didn't have a visa to stay in Germany. In fact, they were one step away from being deported to their country of origin. These refugees had a Duldung. If you mention that to any person who knows German, you will normally see them wince or shake their heads. Duldung means "toleration." These people were "tolerated" to be in Germany. It wasn't a very easy thing to live under a Duldung. One had to register each month with the local police station and immigration office, where it will be reevaluated. One would be allowed to work with a proper work permit, but the employer would have to register each month and verify that their "tolerated" employee was still there. Most employers were very reluctant to hire someone with a Duldung.
With all the paperwork and inconvenience, who could blame them? I felt supremely sorry for these refugees who were simply tolerated. They couldn't work. They had to rely on the State for assistance, and they were under constant threat of being deported back to their country, where things were not always secure or safe.
We are in a world that has been trying to teach tolerance. Now there are those who view tolerance with a wary eye. They view tolerance as being subversive, compromising, or simply beneath them. They have no room for tolerance in their lives. So they show no tolerance. They do not tolerate people of other beliefs, other political views, or other sexual orientations. They show no love.
However, I also do not like the idea of tolerance. This word, which can sometimes have a positive connotation, has a negative one for me. I want to be accepted. I want to be loved. I want to know that I am valued and appreciated for who I am.
I do not want to be simply tolerated.
Jesus said to his disciples, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:12) I believe he speaks this to us today, too. Unfortunately, the opposite happens instead and has been boiling to the point where people are leaving the Church. Who could blame them? When people are merely tolerated and not loved, why should they stay?
Are we creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance where we worship? I'm not talking about the songs we sing, how we worship, if we lift our hands in praise, or if we recite liturgy. Do we accept people in our midst? Do we offer friendship to them, no matter who they are or what they look like?
Do we tolerate, or do we love and accept?