Tolerance is not
a great virtue to aspire to.
Love is much tougher
–N. T. Wright
Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ.
–Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has been not only the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exerted so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.
–W. E. H. Lecky,
History of European Morals
There has never been a more real or genuine man than Jesus of Nazareth. He embraces all the good elements that mark other men and it is not too much to say that there is no element missing which men think desirable in the human character. Not only so, he possesses all these elements in a higher degree than anyone else, and with perfect balance and proportion. There is no weakness, no exaggeration or strain, no strong or weak points as is the case with the rest of mankind. Still more there are certain elements and traits of character which are not found elsewhere such as absolute humility, entire unselfishness, whole hearted willingness to forgive, and the most . . . perfect holiness. Nor must we overlook the wonderful blending of contrasts which are to be seen in Jesus Christ: the combination of keenness and integrity; of caution and courage; of tenderness and severity; of sociability and aloofness. Or we may think of the elements of sorrow without moroseness; of joy without lightness; of spirituality without asceticism; of conscientiousness without morbidness; of freedom without license; of earnestness without fanaticism. He was, in every sense, a [perfect] man.
The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive in its practice and has exerted so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the dispositions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.
The History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne