1 John 4:18-21 - There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
We don't need any sociologist to tell us that intolerance is causing a lot of trouble in the world today. If the personal tolerance of some people for other people is low, acrimony, hate, and strife—together with open conflict—are bound to result, with the consequences we see all around us in the world today.
At the bottom of this whole business is fear: a deep-seated, corrosive fear clamming up the heart of humanity. The results of this are man's many hurts and inhumanities to man. When it comes to man's inner fears, drastic action is required.
Fear without faith in God is a killer. It does things to a man that shouldn't happen to a beast. It turns him into a demon, unsure of himself and suspicious of everyone else. This is life for an awful lot of people these days. It's a continuing torment—on the inside and the outside. The root of the weed of intolerance is fear.
Sadly, much of modern life is dominated by fear. This then fuels intolerance and, in the end, is incapable of the self-giving, self-forgetting, self-sacrificing love which marks the best man or woman in any age. But, though we may have forgotten how to love, God never does.
That's right. God loves. He puts up with our weakness and cowardice. His love is tolerant and ever patient with us, as He forgives all who penitently seek and accept His good grace in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus we can learn to live and love in life's most trying situations. We can learn to appreciate and deal with people whom we would likely never make the effort to understand otherwise—all because "He first loved us." As God works in us, we can learn to love with patience, tolerance, and sensitivity. We can thrust out all that old, cold intolerance and let in the life-saving, healing qualities of love to take its place.
Do this, then, for Jesus' sake. Do it through the love that God's Spirit is working in your heart. It's a love that's being perfected in you, a love that casts out fear, intolerance, and deep-seated ill-will for others. It's a love that should mark all our lives as God's people.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11)
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, helps us love our neighbor, every one of them. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "Intolerant Man, Tolerant God," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Would you consider yourself biased to any considerable degree?
2. Did Jesus deal with bias issues in His ministry? How can perfect love cast out fear?
3. If one has deep-seated prejudices, is there a healthy way to work through them?
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