2008-09-04 - Tolerance in Focus
John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The word tolerance is defined as follows:
The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.1
The Pilgrims came here seeking a place where they could worship as they chose without suffering the intolerance of the society and government where they lived. One of the standards of this nation has developed is the allowance to worship, or not, within the law of the land without the mandate of a state religion. If someone wants to include human sacrifice in their worship, that would be outside the law that prohibits murder as an extreme example. No where in this definition of tolerance is either side required to subscribe to the beliefs of the other side, but to respect them.
There is a sense today that tolerance must include the idea that there are no moral absolutes. The idea that a Christian must accept the idea that there are no absolutes defines us as intolerant. The idea that there are no moral absolutes is itself an absolute! The idea that I must accept a tenant of faith that contradicts my faith is intolerant. If Jesus said He was the one way, one truth and one life, and that he was the only way to the Father and I believe Jesus to be God, then I have to accept His statement as truth. That truth for me becomes a moral imperative. If I am given the opportunity to speak my mind on this topic, that is what you will hear. Will I demand that you accept that moral imperative if you do not claim to be a Christian? No. I may encourage you, but I will respect your beliefs.
Is the gospel presented? Yes, but consider this. It can be presented in words, and that is important. Paul instructs young Timothy to "preach the word" in season or out of season (2 Tim 4:2). But if words do not match actions then the words ring hollow and pale. Jesus' reach touched the poor, the sick and the rich young ruler and into the Sanhedrin in the person of Nicodemus. Jesus' anger was reserved for those who knowingly presented themselves as the defenders of the faith when they used the temple for their own personal gain. Jesus also knew their hearts where we can only surmise. The woman caught in adultery was treated with compassion when she truly deserved to be stoned according to the law. The harlot washed Jesus' feet with her tears in gratitude for His open message of acceptance for all who would come and follow Him. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well not condemn her and braking the social taboo of speaking with a Samaritan and a woman in public, and reached her entire village in the process with the good news that God's love was there for them too. Compassion is elemental to the gospel.
Yet many who came and heard the Master speak left unchanged. The rich young ruler went away sad because he would not part with his possessions. Some were interested and left those thoughts for another day that may sadly have never come. Jesus raised the dead and those who should have been looking for His coming instead scoffed and plotted His death. There will be those people in our lives who simply turn and walk away, or scoff. Know that the seeds have been planted. It may be up to others to water those seeds and still others to see them harvested. Be tolerant of their right to walk on believing as they do, and pray God will place others in their path.
Tolerance requires respect, not necessarily agreement, from both sides. Respect is an offshoot of compassion which will open hearts and doors much more readily than any debate or discussion.
Grace & Peace,