Monday, September 17, 2007

More on Tolerance

In the previous post I mentioned learning to practice tolerance in several different contexts - within a congregation, within the church at large, within interpersonal relationships, within the larger community. Over the past few weeks I have been considering some of the implications of the practice of tolerance, and have been deliberately conscious of examples and non-examples of tolerance within these contexts. Over the next few posts I will point out some of the examples that I've noticed.

There is an old saying that he who stands for nothing will fall for anything. One of the issues raised in class discussion yesterday was the potential of being too tolerant; the specific question was "Where do you draw the line?" The seemingly obvious answer would be where God draws it, but that may not be as obvious as some seem to think. The Pharisees were pretty certain that they knew what not to tolerate, but Jesus was pretty clear that they didn't get it. He seemed to tolerate people while not tolerating behavior - "Where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more."

It appears fairly certain that certainty is not tolerable to God, but certainty has been at the root of most of the division (which also seems to not be tolerable to God) the church has known. I would define tolerance as the subjugation of personal opinion and personal preference to the promotion of unity.

Using this definition, one recent example of tolerance at Skillman was our "Together We Worship" service a couple of weeks ago. We had a service focused on kids, with songs, a dog, and even communion geared towards children. While much of what was planned would not fall within the preference of most of the adults present, it was one of the most enthusiastically supported and participated in assemblies in recent memory.

Sadly, within this same recent timeframe we received a memo from one of the other congregations in town asking us to participate, financially and by lending our name, in an ad denouncing a decision by another of our local congregations. Regardless of one's opinion on the decision or the issue involved in the decision, the lack of tolerance exemplified here cannot contribute to the unity that Jesus prayed for.


Larry James said...

Good thoughts, Craig. It seems to me that when we get things right with people our religion will fall in line. The things that help us square up with our neighbors will likely be the essentials of the religion we then naturally and enthusiastically pursue as our "faith" or church or religion.

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