Saturday, May 10, 2014


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?


  1. I understand the words and concepts strung together here, and the experience that causes you to put together this conclusion. .... I'm just not sure that A+B necessarily equal C. To"tolerate" (in broader definition) implies that there is something to tolerate. .... which needs to be looked at. ..What is tolerated? Even Christianity is tolerated vs not tolerated, depending where you call home globally. To tolerate does not universally mean hatred. Sometimes it is a kindness, as in a family gathering for the sake of overall unity and relationship. .... or where coexistence is more important than personal preference. Other times is a political rouse or can be tied to promotion ofan issue (tall or manufactured) or opinion. Social justice issues such as those you mention are heart breaking. . So, yeah, wow. ... if we believe Revelations.....we, as Christ followers will stand among those not tolerated. We will need to be counted as His...... or not. You're correct about Love. .. may it be our highest calling.

    1. Good points, Ronda. This is my own personal experience with the term "tolerance." Adding to what I said here before, some people view tolerance in a positive light: living in peace together, living in a multicultural world of different values, heritages, and upbringings. This type of tolerance is good.

      However, I want more than tolerance. I want acceptance, love, validation. If I am simply tolerated, that is no good.

      The comparisons I used from my time in Germany were there to emphasize that sometimes the way we view tolerance is not how it is viewed by those being tolerated. Just an aside, there is a positive word in German for tolerance: "Toleranz," and this would correspond to our positive view of tolerance.

      However, this is a word that has been borrowed from English, via Latin. It is not your typical German word.