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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  1. Unity among believers doesn’t mean much to the body unless they are in unity with the mind of God and the Word of God. I see some very unified appearing churches that seem outwardly beautiful, but they are not doing God’s will.

    Tossing It Out


  2. Right on! As you’ve heard before: “In essentials unity,; in nonessentials liberty; in all things, charity (love). – Melanchton


  3. Excellent post, Becky. As usual. I linked your blog to mine. I don’t have a clue if anyone reads mine, but if they do, they’ll find you and your wonderful discussions on faith and fiction.


  4. I think it falls under the ‘like-minded’ category. As you say, there’s a level of diversity required. Real tolerance is -not- assimilation, but appreciation.


  5. Great post! Yes, we bear each others burdens and help those are weak. But there is a difference between people seeking help with the chains of sin and those who redefine sin so they can continue in it. Those are the people we need to be wary of in the church.


  6. Hello Becky,

    I am rather new to your blog. I was actually seeking blogs similar to my own. Ones that feature encouraging stories, insights and inspiration. Not sure, if it is better to be broad – any good Christian sites or specific like mine.

    As it happens, I do have a couple of short fiction.

    As for the original post, I would think that unity includes diversity. Paul spoke of us, being one Body. My bicep is not the same as the triceps or the deltoids. Yet, each of these muscles are needed to lift things. They work together. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?

    I, for one am glad for the initial training I got from my Catholic heritage. I’m also thankful for what I learned from the National Baptist, and Pentecostals. Each one has propelled me, further in my walk with Christ. Though each are different, there is much similarity.


  7. So true! I love this post! I may repost it on my fb.


  8. Great conversation going. Thanks to each of you for contributing.

    Lee, you’re right that true unity among Christians comes from unity with Christ. I’m thinking of the vine/branch illustration Christ gave. The branches really have only the vine in common, but that makes them all part of the same plant. True Christian unity surpasses cultural differences, racial diversity, ethnic practices. We are united in Spirit.

    Carolyn, thanks for giving the quote. It’s a great summary.

    Normandie, thanks for stopping by and for linking to my blog. I’ll need to drop by your site and see what all you’re up to these days.

    “Real tolerance is not assimilation.” I like that Kaci. Well said.

    Morgan, I like the word of caution. I tried to weave that in towards the end because I think it’s hard to stay balanced—much easier to focus on one aspect. So “unity” must mean we accept everyone and anything goes. Uh, NO!

    Barry, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You’re welcome to join in the conversation any time.

    Nikole, thanks for the affirmation. I’d be happy to have you pass this post along.



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