Musings on Missions, Schisms, and Tolerance

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Adventures in Odyssey has a great line about tolerance. Frustrated, one of the characters says, "I will not tolerate your intolerance!" It's one of the many brilliant moments I remember from the radio show of my childhood.

Intolerant of Intolerance

Tolerance has a bad rap in my ideological neighborhood. There are solid reasons to dislike it; passivity, permissiveness, and even promotion of sin run wild in these woods. While many who embrace tolerance talk about grace, few discuss the reason for why we all need it. Thus, grace becomes a graciousness toward others (a good thing!) and misses out on the amazing work of Christ to save us sinners (an even more amazing thing!).

But as I revisit The Troubles of Ireland in Gladwell's David and Goliath, tolerance doesn't seem like such a bad thing. Granted, the problem was a mixing of politics and religion -- which happens all too frequently; it was not purely rooted in the Schism of the Church. But what if, instead of clinging tightly to our way, our ideals, our understanding of truth, we adopted a bit of <gasp> tolerance?

What would that look like?

It may look a bit like Lent, actually. It's a Catholic thing, so me -- a Protestant -- is rather disconnected from this beautiful and historically rich tradition. I loved Brianna Heldt's defense of Lent blog post. It was a good reminder that my particular "flavor" of Christianity could learn something from my brothers and sisters in Christ; brothers and sisters I would have killed in the streets as a teenager in Ireland.

This reminds me of my own tendency to forget the humanity of people around me. And while it is true that love is a far higher calling than tolerance, they do overlap in a venn diagram. Missionaries, for instance, choose to enter a society they believe is misled in the hope of sharing the love of Christ. They do this not by loudly proclaiming the moral failings of the people they encounter, but by gently showing the beauty of Christ's love for us.

In many ways, tolerance can give us a moment to learn about others so we can diffuse tension. This is a big part of why Sonlight presents multiple views.

Do you do anything for Lent? Have you been challenged by the tension and overlap of love and tolerance? Have you seen anything about missions recently that has encouraged you to continue to seek ways to be unified with the family of Christ around the globe?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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