True Peace: The Death of Mere Tolerance

Peace on EarthNow that we’re several weeks into the Easter season, I’m sure there’s one word that you’ve heard repeatedly at Mass: peace.  It’s part of nearly every account of Christ’s appearance to his apostles.  He appears among them and declares, “My peace be with you.”  But what exactly do we mean when we think about the peace of Christ?  I’ll tell you what Christ does not mean: a lack of conflict.

Peace is not a lack of conflict, regardless of what our country tells us.  We are told that in order to find peace, we must make love, not war.  We must stop fighting with one another.  Killing one another.  But that’s not peace.  That’s part of peace, but lack of conflict is not its fulfillment.

Peace is not just going to be a lack of something.  It’s not like we remove something and there will be peace.  Peace is not a lack.  It’s a fullness.  It’s the fulfillment of what Christ promised us.  He promised to bring us peace, but not just any peace, His peace.  And there’s a difference.

If at this very moment, all the wars in the world ceased, would we have peace?  If we called a cease-fire, should we call it peace?  No.  That’s called a truce.  And achieving a truce is not the same as establishing peace.  A truce simply admits that we will not compromise about what we hold as truth, that we will not forfeit in the face of adversity.  A truce means that we will not give in and accept our enemy’s position, but often it does mean that we will give up.  A truce often means that “I’ll have my truth, and you’ll have yours, but that’s okay.”  A truce means that I will tolerate my enemy, that I will tolerate this entity that I perceive as an evil.  But in the wishy-washy reality of tolerance, a truce boils down to this: our differences don’t matter because our beliefs don’t matter.  You believe in a God of the jihad?  Well, I believe in a God of love.  Well, let’s call a truce before you decide to destroy me as I’m turning the other cheek.  That’s the kind of peace that we’re all looking for.

CoexistBut that’s not true peace.  That’s a truce laced with fear, and there can be no true peace where there is fear.  In all honesty, and please don’t stone me for this, there can be no true peace in a country where the word on everyone’s mouth is “tolerance.”  If there were true peace, there would be no need for tolerance.  Our country is obsessed with peace and tolerance, but the two simply cannot coexist.  Just because it’s a bumper sticker doesn’t mean it’s true.

Just think about the word “tolerate” for a minute.  What does it mean to “tolerate” someone?  Do you enjoy being in their presence?  Does tolerating something mean that you love it?  No.  When I tolerate the complaints of a nagging parent, I’m not exactly enjoying the situation.  I’m putting up with it.  When I tolerate sitting through a bad movie, I’m not doing it because it’s my favorite.  I tolerate it because it’s bad.  Not because it’s good.  You don’t tolerate your best friend.  And if you do, you might want to re-evaluate your friendship.  Instead of tolerating ideas, we should start loving the people who think them.

But that doesn’t mean accepting their ideas as truth.  You can love someone and still think they’re wrong.  I love my friends who are in unhealthy relationships, but that doesn’t mean that their relationships somehow become good because I love them.  Sometimes loving a person means telling them that they are wrong.  The truth must always be declared lovingly, but it is always an act of love to tell someone the truth.  Even if it hurts.  Even if it means telling them that they are wrong.  That they are sick.  That they are killing themselves through their choices.  You don’t tell your best friend that you will accept her abusive boyfriend; you tell her to kick him to the curb because she deserves better.

Truth Sets FreeMorality is a matter of truth too.  An act is either moral or immoral.  It is either good or bad.  It cannot be both.  It cannot be neither.  If it’s not good for you, it’s going to kill you.  It might be quick or it might be slow, but it will kill you someday.  Peace cannot flourish in a country of dying people.  Not when they are killing themselves.  We can tolerate these killing behaviors in the name of “peace,” but we will still all end up dead.  Peace is not a matter of toleration.  It is a matter of truth.  Do you want peace?  Start telling the truth.  Not sure what the truth is?  Crack open the Bible.  Don’t have one?  Buy one.  Borrow one.  Contact me to help you find one.  Just get one.  You want peace?  You need the Truth, and the Truth has a name.  It is not tolerance.  It is not relativism.  It is not coexistence.  His name is Jesus Christ.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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