Good and godly people have lost their reason dividing over everything from doctrine to decor, and even personal decorum.
- Dr. John Niehof
Tolerance is truly a Christian ideal. But it has become a distorted notion in the 21st century. When contemporary culture espouses tolerance, the oft repeated emphasis is that all paths are equally valid. There is no right; there is no wrong; only diversity. Tolerance demands that each embrace the diverse opinions, experiences, and actions of others as equally valid.
Historically, tolerance has a very different meaning. One acceptable definition is that tolerance is "the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." To put up with. To endure. Not rejecting a person because of divergent positions.
In the church, the Body of Christ, we have divided more than we have united. Stories are legion, recounting the point at which holy swords have crossed. Good and godly people have lost their reason dividing over everything from doctrine to decor, and even personal decorum. God's children often find themselves on opposing sides of an intolerant and un-Christian divide.
T.R. Glover is attributed for having said, "Remember that whatever your hand finds to do, someone thinks differently!"
In his sermon “Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley calls the church to love and unity. He tells the story of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, who joined forces with Israel's new king, Jehu. Two very different men with very different historical agendas united to defeat Baal worship in Israel. Jonadab seems to have done so for religious purposes. Jehu apparently did so for political intent, to secure his throne.
In Wesley's sermon, he calls people to deep doctrinal convictions and commitments to historical Christian orthodoxy. "But while he is steadily fixed in his religious principles in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus; while he firmly adheres to that worship of God which he judges to be most acceptable in his sight... his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not; he embraces with strong and cordial affection neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. This is catholic or universal love."
Wesley summarizes his view of the catholic spirit:
If, then, we take this word in the strictest sense, a man of a catholic spirit is one who, in the manner above-mentioned, gives his hand to all whose hearts are right with his heart: one who knows how to value, and praise God for, all the advantages he enjoys, with regard to the knowledge of the things of God, the true scriptural manner of worshiping him, and, above all, his union with a congregation fearing God and working righteousness: one who, retaining these blessings with the strictest care, keeping them as the apple of his eye, at the same time loves--as friends, as brethren in the Lord, as members of Christ and children of God, as joint partakers now of the present kingdom of God, and fellow heirs of his eternal kingdom--all, of whatever opinion or worship, or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; who love God and man; who, rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil, and zealous of good works. (http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-39-catholic-spirit)
Christian tolerance. We must reclaim it!
Saint Augustine said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”