Tolerance, Like Riding a Bike!

unknownIn 1996, the UN General Assembly designated November 16 ‘The International Day of Tolerance.’ In 1995 UNESCO created the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. It was launched on the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. It sparked my interest. What is “tolerance’ when applied through Christian thought?

I found an article ‘The Sin of Tolerance” by Dr Billy Graham, published February 2, 1959, by Christianity Today (USA). In a review of that article Ed Clark said, ‘tolerance’ was described as a pet word of the age. “It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life,” Clark observed. “The word ‘tolerant’ means ‘liberal,’ ‘broad-minded,’ ‘willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,’ and ‘the allowance of something not wholly approved.’

Yes I get all that, but as a Christian, just what am I supposed to tolerate and what should cause protest or at least resistance? Call me old fashioned but many today appear to believe in nothing. Constant brain-washing by TV, movies, magazines and social media have sucked us into a world that reduces genuine moral standards to look like narrow minded old fuddy-duddy restrictions. There appears to be an accumulative roll-over and say nothing approach to moral changes sweeping society.

 Definitions.

Parents and teenagers have always fought over definitions. I remember years ago, the negativity I received for using rock and roll in our ministry. We packed our hall with teenagers but many thought rock and roll was ‘of the devil.” (I was very grateful when Larry Norman recorded ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the good Music’).

Today there is hardly any debate on issues like divorce, adultery, abortion and sexuality. Those who speak out to defend biblical standards are shutdown with a variety of bitter name-calling. We are categorized as narrow-minded, even wowsers. Sadly so many have been silent and that silence is taken to mean approval.

In her online article ‘A Biblical Perspective on Tolerance’ Rebecca S. May wrote: “God said there are certain rules and standards which are true for everyone. If there are no rules or standards which apply without exception to everyone, then everyone gets to decide for himself the rules which apply and truth is lost. For the majority of Christians, this is already happening.” (www.relationalconcepts.org)
 “Everyone does that which is right in unknown-1their own eyes’ (judges chapter 17 verse 6) described it beautifully. I’m reminded of the old saying, “If it feels good, do it!” and that is a very dangerous GPS to follow.

Biblical Worldview

When we proclaim ourselves to be Christians, what does that mean? How many Christians actually embrace a genuine ‘biblical worldview’? This may surprise. Barna Research found in a nationwide survey only 9 percent of American adults have a biblical worldview on morality. They found less than half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation (ie those aged 18 to 23), have a biblical worldview.

Barna summed up that finding this way: “… even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.” (Barna: How Many Have a Biblical Worldview – Christianity Today, March, 2009)

Truth is an essential part of Christian faith. Jesus called Himself ‘the way, the truth and the life.” We are told to worship the Lord ‘in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) So Truth has an important specific place in our faith.

Incidentally the Way, the Truth and the Life are all key. When you chose the Christian Way, you found the Bible and its Truth to be your most indispensable guide, and that connection leads to the Life whose peace ‘passes all understanding.’

Last June, Australia was rated to be one of the most tolerant nations on earth. US research, developed with the Harvard Business School rated Australia second in the world for personal rights. We were also acknowledged for ‘tolerance and inclusion.’ We only need to observe the nations where intolerance is a way of life to see deadly behavior causing grief, death and devastation.

I read an article written by Alfie Mumby-Cook a 15 year old student from Thames Christian College. He wrote: “As Christians in this changing society we should lead the way, setting an example of tolerance. We can welcome every individual, even if we cannot condone their lifestyle or accept their points of view. For tolerance does not demand that we regard all views as equally valid or acceptable and indeed the law supports this position. We should tolerate all people so long as they do no harm to others, in thoughts, in words or in deeds.”

Changing morality standards in our society must be resisted because they will eventually lead to decline for many. But we resist because we love. We love the Lord with all our heart and mind. We love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love teaches and lives truth. Our example is our best weapon. Francis Schaeffer wrote a wonderful series he called, ‘How Should We then Live?” The answer is simple. We must live the way we want the world to live. The Apostle Paul wrote: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” (Romans chapter 12, verse 18)

Tolerance applied in ‘spirit and in truth’ is a sometimes balancing act. I like the way Helen Keller said it: “Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.”

Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

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Politics in Perspective

imagesI’m rendering to Caeser right now, without much success. No matter which candidate becomes President of the United States, I think I will be disappointed. None of the leaders in Australia get me very inspired either. So I am trying to render to Caeser that which is politics while I cling close to God as the real powerhouse of my confidence. (Mark chapter 12, verse 17)

Am I the only one wrestling with this tension? Americans think they avoid the crisis by not voting. Australians by law must vote but for which candidate or party?

Our Christian standards are under serious attack. What used to be called bible absolutes have suddenly become a bunch of maybes. So often I feel hopeless as I watch arguments about marriage and abortion move further away from the plan outlined by the Bible.

Do faith and politics connect? How effective has the Christian message been in Western culture? It is possible for believers to go too far putting their faith in political leaders who are flawed like all of us. No one will measure up to the standards set by Jesus. Nevertheless we want our elected representatives to represent our faith and the basics found in the Ten Commandments.

When God placed man in the Garden of Eden he told them ‘to work it and guard it.’ (Genesis chapter 2, verse 15) That went great until we disobeyed his wisdom and guidance. The human race dropped its guard and we entered into what we called a fallen world.We are learning that we cannot raise a fallen world in our own strength. It takes a superbly divine power to overcome the flesh.

Ambassadors

Jesus triumphed and invited us to be born again. When we accept, we are transformed and become citizens of His Kingdom, with a new authority and anointing as his representatives. The Apostle Paul described it with a political term. He declared we are ‘ambassadors for Christ as though God were making his appeal through us.’ (2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 20) Ambassadors, meaning we are elected to be his representatives with all the power and dominion that commission provides.

There is an army of courageous Christians who blessed their fellow man through political, spirit- inspired influence. In Genesis chapter 47 Joseph was placed in charge of all Egypt. He was what today we might call Prime Minister. The wise administration applied by Joseph saved lives during famine.

Oliver Cromwell, William Wilberforce, Sir Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Bishop Festo Kivengere, Mary Whitehouse CBE and so many more, were saints who stood for Christian ethics and rights in the public and political arena.

Dr Billy Graham has been confidante and friend to numerous US presidents. Dr.Martin Luther King powerfully influenced his generation and won the Nobel Peace Prize. (The $50,000 prize-money he donated to the civil rights movement).

UnknownThe father of the Australian federation Sir Henry Parkes (right)  said, “we are pre-eminently a Christian people – as our laws, our whole system of jurisprudence, our Constitution… are based upon and interwoven with our Christian belief”

George Washington famously said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsin fought a continuous literary war with the Soviet Union hierarchy. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. He suffered in Stalin’s prison camps and wrote of the ordeal. When his book ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” was published he offered a prayer: How easy it is for me to live with you, Lord!How easy for me to believe in you,  When my spirit is lost, perplexed and cast down, When the sharpest can see no further than the night,  And know not what on the morrow they must do You give me a sure certainty That you exist, that you are watching over me And will not permit the ways of righteousness to be closed to me.  Here on the summit of earthly glory I look back astonished On the road which through depths of despair has led me here.  To this point from which I can also reflect to men your radiance And all that I can still reflect – you shall grant to me.  And what I shall fail you shall grant to others.”

 Christian Values

Rev Fred Nile is an ordained minister who heads up the Christian Democratic Party (CDP). He has served in the New South Wales Legislative Council for 35 years. The CDP website says they were founded by caring Australians and their movement is ‘based on Christian values and ethics.”

The CDP has a published list of Christian values they seek to implement and defend. Just a few might give us some idea of how our interest in politics may help disciple our nation. They strive to uphold a free and democratic society with freedom of speech, the rule of law and stable constitutional government. Second they seek to support and strengthen the family unit as the basis of our society with responsible parenting, with pro-family, pro-child policies and emphatically they say, ‘No to euthanasia.’

CDP also stands for “high moral principles in all walks of life and legislation based on biblical ethics and integrity.”   They have 14 policy pointers at the website www.christianitydemocraticparty.com.au.

The story of each one of the above alongside so many more, reads like extended chapters of the New Testament. Their dedicated contribution personalised ‘go into all the world and disciple nations.’

Our frustration with politics and politicians comes when we disagree with them or when their human frailties surface. Government is a human institution and comes with all the fallen nature found in the rest of us. The ultimate, stabilising source can only be the Lord. Everyone else at some stage, will fall short.