During the month of September we have been discussing Tolerance in the Covenant class, using Romans 14 and 15 as the primary text. We began the discussion somewhat abstractly, talking about the differences in the history and contextual backgrounds of the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians in Rome and how that impacted their views on eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. We looked at the apparent contradiction in what Paul instructed the Romans and what he told the church in Galatia - in Romans he seems to come down on the 'side' of the Jews, and in Galatians he sides with the Gentiles - and suggested a couple of principles that seem to be consistent across both letters.
The first principle seems to be to accommodate the outsider. In Rome, the Gentile Christians were the established or dominant group; in Galatia, the opposite is true. In both instances he criticizes the establishment for trying to force the outsider to conform to its brand of Christianity.
The second principle seems to be to develop a tolerance for differences in interpretation, opinion, and practice. Tolerance is a mindset to apply within the congregation and to the church at large; to interpersonal relationships and to citizenship within the larger community.
I will have quite a bit more related to this concept over the next few days, but I thought that this comic from Sunday's paper captured the essance - you can click on it to see a more readable version...