Unity and Tolerance


Unity is something God calls Christians to. We are, as Paul put it to the church in Philippi, to be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2).

Again, to the church in Corinth, he wrote

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
– 1 Cor 1:10-13 (emphasis mine)

No divisions? This does not sound like the church I know.

Instead, the Protestants I hang around with are skeptical of “ecumenical” movements. And the buzz word of our culture, “tolerance,” is one of the dirty words no self-respecting Bible believing Christian would … well, tolerate, right?

Except … Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians to paint a picture of the church as a body—not all of us hands or feet or eyes or ears, some of us less presentable than others.

Gifts, some will say—that passage refers to gifts! True. But the point is still unity amid diversity.

Am I advocating, then, a union with churches like the one mainline denomination I just recently read about that has okayed practicing lesbians to serve as pastors? Well, no, I’m not. At this point I think we need to revisit the issues that surfaced in the discussion of the post “What Constitutes Rejection of God?”

At some point, when a person rejects the Bible, he is rejecting God. While I might disagree with some interpretations of the Bible, I think there is a commonality I share with true believers who also look to Scripture as the inspired Word of God.

We might do things differently (such as baptism), might believe different things about the non-essentials (such as style of worship), but in the end, we love God and love our neighbors, we share the same Holy Spirit, and we purpose to make Christ known. Our minds are “set on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

Tolerance? Not of sin in the camp. But of one another’s weakness, absolutely. We are to bear each other’s burdens, give deference to a weaker brother, teach those who are younger in the faith. We are to endure all things (I Cor. 13:7b).

Endure the music we don’t care for in the worship service. Endure an older person falling asleep next to us. Endure a crying, squirmy child in the row in front of us. Endure the cell phone ringing in the middle of the sermon. Endure the pastor’s casual style of dress. Endure the choir’s robes.

When, oh when, did we the church become so fractured by minor issues, even as we opened ourselves to teaching that denies the veracity of the Bible? It’s not a new thing, I know, but maybe it’s time we show the world we are Christians by how we love one another.

Published in: on July 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm  Comments (8)  
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