Finding Tolerance In Diversity


Colossians 3:12-14

Mark Twain once said, “All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats know it. When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad. This should move us to be charitable towards one another’s lunacies.

Two men were discussing the origin of the Christian Church. One of the men said, That’s easy! We Disciples got started with Alexander Campbell.” The second man disagreed, “The Disciples began long before that time. Don’t you remember when Abraham and Lot were surveying the land of Canaan? They walked together for a long time, over the hills, across the streams, through the valleys. Then Abraham said to Lot, ‘All right, you go your way and I’ll go mine.’ That’s when the Disciples got started!”

There can be no freedom or fulfillment apart from submission to Jesus Christ. “The purpose of life,” said P. T. Forsyth, “is not to find your freedom, but to find your master.”

During the summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, I worked in construction. As with most construction workers, by the end of the day you were dirty and you smelled bad. The drug store in my small home town closed at 6:00. So I had to come directly from work to the drug store to pick up a prescription. A lady standing next to me at the counter was obviously disturbed by my presence. I remember when she left the store, the workers in the drug store saying, “That is honorable dirt.”

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:16-18)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matt 23:27) We don’t know all of the story! But God does. The next time you see a guy with a ponytail, you might feel more tolerant if you can remember George Washington had one of those too.

Dr. James Dobson quoted educator, Rene Voeltzel when he said, “We must not look too soon in the child for the person he will later become.” In both the physical and spiritual realm, we must look beyond the present to see in others what God knows they can become through His Son, Jesus Christ. We live in a pluralistic society that is growing more and more pluralistic. I am an active member of a local civic group. I was asked to make arrangements for the opening prayers for each meeting. Now, this is a group that has a diverse background of people. There was a big debate about ending prayers “in the name of Jesus.”

How do we live with pluralism in our society? We live with Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism and many others. How do we live in the world but not of this world?

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)

In Paul’s message to the Areopagus we find a lot of “tolerance.” It is not that Paul agrees with all of the status given to the various gods. But Paul goes out of his way not to condemn those who are there that day in the Areopagus. Yet, neither does he justify all of the idols. There is a “tolerance” of all the idols so that Paul may witness to the people and so that there may be peace.

Tolerance or charity is what is due all of those who see things (especially of faith) differently than we do. Enough blood has been spilt over religious intolerance. Just because we are tolerance or extend charity, in no way does it means that we condone or accept that point of view. What it does mean is that we live in a diverse world and every one of us it entitled to his/her belief.

A restaurant patron seemed particularly bothered about the temperature in the restaurant. He complained to his waiter that it was too cold and the waiter needed to turn down the air conditioner. The waiter told the patron he would do so immediately. A few minutes later the patron complained that it was now too hot. The waiter apologized and told the irate patron that he would make a slight adjustment to the air conditioner. These temperature complaints and slight adjustments happened several more times during the course of the evening. A man at another table asked the waiter how he could be so patient with the constantly changing whims of this dissatisfied patron. The waiter shrugged his shoulder and said that it was simple. “By the way,” the waiter added, “this restaurant does not even have an air conditioner!”

Charity is the ability to let your light shine even though your fuse is blown.
In my civic club, I told each person to pray in the manner that they were most comfortable. Tolerance means that I accept their prayer. Tolerance doesn’t mean that I dilute my prayer to accommodate everyone else. Our prayer is to our God. When I am doing the talking or praying, I am talking to God as I understand God. Sometimes I am the guest and I am listening in on someone else praying in their way.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

2 thoughts on “Finding Tolerance In Diversity

  1. Linda Watson

    Mark Twain has a quip on just about everything, doesn’t he? I loved the story about the air conditioner in the restaurant. Linda Watson

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