This is a guest post by Laura Tringali.

woman caught in adulteryI have learned in my few years of young adulthood that the difference between standing up for what one believes in and judging those who disagree is not as clear as I would like it to be. This complicates our lives, doesn’t it? You want to stand firm in what you believe to be upright but somehow a distorted idea of tolerance muddies up the whole situation, and people accuse you of being judgmental.

I was having a discussion recently with a great friend of mine about one of these hot-button moral issues. I would like to omit the specific topic because, as these current issues can be sensitive, I hope to avoid bringing up feelings that will distract from my point here. So, after we each shared our differing viewpoints and reasoning, we began to engage in back-and-forth challenges: “What do you think about this?” and “What if that?” Her most striking, however unsurprising, criticism was a blanket statement that not all Christians do everything the Bible tells them to do followed by one specific example of a Christian she knows who has made decisions contrary to my argument of the Catholic perspective on the issue. Therefore, aren’t I a hypocrite for disagreeing with her if not all Christians are living in line with Church teaching?

I should have been more prepared to answer this question, but after much prayer and contemplation, here I am to share my response with you instead. This argument against the “Christian hypocrite” is quite common in my experience, but here is the catch: Christianity, as a body of people, does not claim to be a collection of perfect people. Examples of how Christians fail to live holy lives do not discredit the integrity of the faith and its morals. Jesus called sinners to follow him because he is the physician to the sick (Mt 9:12). So it follows that her question is actually: How can Christians, as a group of imperfect people in a world of imperfect people, stand up for Christian morality without being personally flawless in morality?

If I judge, then yes, I am a hypocrite, but disagreeing is not the same as judging. Pope Francis reminds us in these situations: “We must always consider the person.”[1] God is love, and in the image and likeness of God our greatest calling in life is to love. We can and should let our voices be heard in these sensitive moral debates, but never without first and always bearing in mind the dignity of each and every individual. This is tolerance: to love and respect individuals.

[1] Interview with America Magazine, 2013.

Laura Tringali, born and raised in Hershey, PA, received her BS in Psychology with minors in Nonprofit Studies and Classics at The Ohio State University. After graduating with recognition from the university for her research on Paul’s theology in the New Testament, Laura is now pursuing a Master in Theological Studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.