Why Toleration ?

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The duty of churches is to get every person possible into a personal relationship with God. That is its primary duty. That is what Christ came to preach: the Kingdom of God and every person a part of it.

When you have a relationship with God, then you should grow in conscience learning to be guided by the Holy Spirit who is igniting some spark of grace within you.

Yes, do what your conscience calls for, but what you may be called upon by it to do, can be very different from what another’s conscience may call for.

We are all (if in any grace) in varying stages of grace where what we see to do may be different from what others see to do. Both seeing differently yet both are honest persons following their grace. But we must all be true to what we see. We can only redeem in the light of that grace what we have been given to see.

What does this mean on a practical basis? It means many strong differences in views and life styles exist. But if you have love, you will tolerate these because it is not uniformity of life, belief and thought that holds the people of God together, it is unanimity in love. For Christians, God is love and the scriptures say first above all, “Let brotherly love continue.” (Hebrews 13:1)

Uniformity in thought and unanimity in view are nice but not necessary for love. Our first object should not be uniformity or unanimity but love. We must cherish each other as we are all children of God and to be treated that way.

Where there are differences and disagreements, take them seriously but not too seriously. Take them with a grain of salt. Love first. Respect and toleration will come from love. If you love, you will tolerate. You will cherish the individual even if you are not fond of but more than question his views.

Does love mean we cannot disagree strongly with another? Of course not! Use your common sense. I am convinced that subjects and views well defined by strong feelings and differences clearly marked make choice easier and better. People need to make clear and informed spiritual and moral choices. They can do this better from well defined arguments.

But I suggest there is a circle the church should stay in. There is one more line around that circle the churches should not step over directly, because their involvement weakens the case for Christ in the long run. For the good of all, the church should stay in its circles.

The inner circle of the bull’s eye is Christ and love. That is the central business of the churches: to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and that everyone may have a personal relationship with God, (if they wish to claim it.)

Around one circle is another circle. The first circle is is love. The second circle includes developing in conscience, grace, acts of love and acts of charity. The outside circle gets the light of love shining from the inner circle. That lights so clearly that all might respect it: orphanages, charities, acts of grace and actions of love. I suggest that there will be no controversy about the two circles. Who could have a controversy about these but a sick mind?

Outside the two circles one steps into the realm of disputations between consciences. I do not think the churches should move into this area directly. It gets the churches off their mark: the relationship to God and dispensing grace. Let the churches preach Christ first. From that other things will fall into line. The church should be an influence, not a worldly power broker. (We have seen in history what happens when the church moves over into governments.)

Such is the difficulty with the Social Gospel where the churches directly tell people how to vote or meddle. Whatever is done for humans, human nature will make it backfire. Human nature can turn anything into a curse, no matter how well meant. When the backfire comes, the church is held responsible. It puts righteousness out a limb waiting to be cut off in time.

The laws of early New England pushed by the churches said that no man could kiss his wife on Sunday. Now we laugh at this. Such was the Social Gospel of the time. What of the Spanish Inquisition? It was also a Social Gospel application.

Churches should not be in the business of power. They should influence by changing men’s consciences. Then men of conscience may do whatever they feel they need to do. Since All are at various stages of grace, views will differ, so opposition will be guaranteed.

The Kingdom of God comes to earth best if not spelled out over-literally. The church should not be given power to exercise directly. The church should influence, and not be involved directly in power brokering. Where the churches influence directly, instead of influencing indirectly, there will ultimately be a boomerang effect.

A thought through relationship with Christ changes much. And that is the way of Christians who should glory in a personal relationship with Christ: thinking, studying, praying, meditating. Thinking is a variation on praying for goals. Remember James 5:16 “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

So does the thinking of a person in grace change much. It often helps to change awareness by conversion, and though conversion to the Lord takes special grace the conversion to an idea, a value or a system, may be through common grace freely given by God to all. Give God the glory.

In a world where the lights of grace shine dimly and differently in intensity on strange places and among diverse peoples, there will be strong disagreements, different views and alternative life styles. Who would be a fool and say otherwise? Be blessed by common sense which also comes from common grace: dispensed to the world by God(though not dispensed to all equally or the same.)

We must tolerate disagreement and put up with some very unfortunate differences because we put LOVE first. It is a true saying that “in love we are all one family, the family of God.” Of disagreements we may have a lot, but of love we have more. Give God the glory.

As good families are held together by love, so should societies, nations, institutions and the world. The whole world is Christ’s extended family.

Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one...”

Again this is not to say there are no important differences. Who would be so silly as to say otherwise? Things are different. But there is a hierarchy of values. The highest value is love. Put love first. When you put love first, you are putting God first as God is love. (I John 4:8 )

You may, as well for your family, your church, the world and the institutions and peoples of it, need to get their values in order. PUT LOVE FIRST. That is the Word of God given you for your own personal salvation as well as ultimately the survival of our world.

Yet I would not have you under any illusion. Some or most will not put love or Christ first. You know this also by common sense. There will be serious consequences because of their refusal to do so. What will happen only God knows. But all you can do is to keep close to God and follow the grace you have.

If you hear or read this, I consider it obvious you stand in grace. Grace attracts grace as magnets do. If you have been given grace, show it. PUT LOVE FIRST. If you are true to your grace, not frustrating it, (Galatians 2: 21) then, like Valiant-For-Truth, the trumpets will sound for you when you cross to the other side. After all, grace is truth. And what you see of grace is your truth.

If you are faithful to grace while yet on earth, you may enjoy at times a satisfaction in the peace of God that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) “The grace of God be with you all. Amen.” (Titus 3:15 )


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.