Sunday, February 12, 2012

TOLERANCE...

                                           Bob Jones University


This year will be my 63rd birthday...I grew up in a home full of love and relatively extreme discipline for the first 18 year, then spent four years in a fundamentalist school, founded on the principles of Bob Jones, Sr. Never having been away from home farther than 20-30 miles, the trip to Greenville, S.C. was one of fear and amazement. In the 60's most simple folk stayed close to home for their entire life, and the Vietnam War and politics in general were surreal concepts to this young man, who was more concerned about playing baseball in high school and practicing the art of Judo during college. During my last two years of college, I became Captain of the University's traveling Judo team. We performed at state fairs, in penitentiaries and even churches, all on the east coast from New York to Florida. During those formative years I developed a severe case of myopic intolerance for everything from religion to dancing, dating, eating, drinking, lying, stealing, cheating and just about anything else that was considered unacceptable behavior. Any feelings I had about any of these subjects remained suppressed down deep. I did what was expected or what I was told for many years, but most importantly I gave up my right to think independently, analyse in detail and decide on my own the difference between right and wrong. 


As I reminisce about the "good 'ole days" from my current chronologically challenged status, I believe that most of the things that happened back then were for my own good as follows:

  1. My fondest memories of my parents, my sister, and my brother, all center around our home. Dad was a commercial painter for most of his life, but his home was truly our castle. He idolized my mother and doted on all of his children every day of his life. Since Mom and Dad got married so young they barely could rub two pennies together, and yet not long after her 17th birthday, she had here first son...
  2. When they bought their first home, it was a monumental achievement for our family, but that tiny 3-bedroom bungalow was where I learned about family love. Of course it always starts with the right example of stability, support and affection.  Mom was a hugger and a kisser, but in our house her love for my Dad was an amazing thing to observe. Their passion for each other and their kids has stayed with me all these years. I thank God for that early influence in my life. 
  3. Mom was the disciplinarian in our family, and her bark was as bad as her bite! We had rules, chores, and we worked hard. We helped her keep our home immaculate, beyond compare. I remember stripping and waxing the floor every Saturday under her intense scrutiny.
  4. Dad was the all about tolerance...Long before it became fashionable to add tolerance to families, religions, social groups, politics and relationships in general, he emerged as the  first pacifist. He replaced discipline with bending the rules, he replaced heated arguing with patience and rationality, and finally, he replaced bigotry with love and kindness to all.

No matter where you live on this globe, we all have come from parents and family units of some type. Mine was not perfect, but it gave me a look the key ingredients for a successful family. When I say not perfect, I mean it. Mom once chased me down with a hair brush and smacked my legs with it, because I refused to come to the dinner table. She believed in corporal punishment for her kids, and Dad, when left with no other choice, would take off his belt and give me a couple of smacks on my posterior. Truth be told, I never appreciated what they were teaching me at the time. Full appreciation from me happened posthumously. Only as I matured, did I ever realize how incredibly blessed I was with my family.

The words, tolerance, tolerate, and toleration are not used in scripture, OT or NT. This does not mean that there aren't examples of tolerance on many levels. First we need to understand the word, and, of course, its roots are in Latin. "Tolerare" is the Latin verb, meaning to tolerate. All of the variations of this word stem from here. It has several different meanings, and here are three:
  1. To bear or to endure something or someone is to tolerate.
  2. To permit or be permissive in the sense of authority is to be tolerant.
  3. Finally, for individuals it means to be free of bigotry or undue severity is to be tolerant. 
Certainly there are a few additional definitions, such as a part being finely machined within a specific tolerance, but this does not apply in this discussion. The three definitions above at least give us the framework around which we can build an understanding of the difference between tolerance and intolerance. 




The Bible, especially in the OT, is not a tolerant book. Prior to the appearance of Jesus in history, the Jewish faith as it progressed through biblical history, spent most of those years attempting to learn and live by His Word and the Eternal Laws of Jehovah. Every one of us has failed to do so throughout man's existence. St.Thomas Aquinas wrote the "Summa Theologica" in about 1265 AD, and one of the topics he discusses in detail is tolerance. St. Thomas equivocates about the subject so much, that by the time you finish the reading, you have forgotten where you started. Anyway, here is where I come out on this subject of great importance...Tolerance.


It seems that God, the Creator, was not about tolerance. He was and remains about the perfection of His creation, man. He destroyed mankind on more than one occasion, and destroyed cities and tribes of people through out the 4,000 years of Jewish history BC. He chose the Jewish race for reasons that we are not certain of at this time, but I am certain that Noah, Abraham, Issac & Jacob did not happen by accident. The "Chosen Nation of Israel" provided God with a people with the history and lineage He was looking for beginning with Noah and going through to His son, Jesus. For thousand of years he nurtured and disciplined this nation, putting them through a process of purification that spanned generations of genealogy, looking for lasting faithfulness and obedience from his chosen people. No matter what laws He put in place, no matter how many times he rained manna from Heaven, or sprung water out of rocks, consistency never happened. He had them subjugated by Egypt and then miraculously saved them. He had them conquered by the Babylonians and then miraculously saved them, all the time, trying to create faithful obedience out of a "stiff-necked people." 


In the OT God dealt swiftly and decisively, without ever looking back; in fact, looking back cost Lot's wife her life. If you look at the Hebrew history, it seems like they always took one great step forward, followed by two steps in the wrong direction. Despite everything the Creator did all through those years, the best it ever got was under the rule of King David or his son Solomon. Even those amazing leaders ended up mired in sin for one reason or another causing future leaders to go back to worshiping the world around them, instead of the God who created and cared for them.


Figuring that we have just over 6 millennia of recorded Jewish history, somewhere in the 4th millennium, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Jesus was a game changer, because the Son of God became a man for 33 years. For 4,000 years God the Father had tried to find a workable solution of miracles and laws to remedy the inherent, flawed and sinful nature of mankind. Could He have compelled obedience? Of course, but then our lives and affection for Him would not be real, so a change had to be made.




In order to genuinely understand us, Jesus became one of us...From his birth to his death he did nothing but examine God the Father's creation to decide once and for all, whether mankind was worth salvaging. I believe that Heaven devised this plan, led by Jesus himself. It took him 33 of our years, before He decided to make the journey from life to death, and back again. It was the essence of love and the ultimate sacrifice simultaneously. Think about it, he lived in virtual poverty, he was tempted every day by Satan himself, he talked to God the Father whenever he could, he ate our food, drank our wine, and worked as a carpenter. What a perfect choice for a job. We had carpenters 6,000 years ago, and we still have them today. Jesus's entire life, though cut short, was to give Him a timeless, face-to-face experience with mankind. 


During this one short life, mankind began a new era based on what He learned during His tenure with us. Thank God that Jesus learned what he needed to know and completed the plan of universal, global redemption. You see, He did not die for the Hebrew nation, he did not die for Catholics, he did not die for the Baptists, Methodists or Lutherans, he did not die for Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus, he did not die for black, white, red, brown or yellow, he died for every living soul on this planet past, present and future. By the way that includes atheists, gnostics, satanists, and every cult. So as intolerant as the OT was, the NT is all about tolerance for God's creation. God is not interested in your color, your creed, your country, your language or the depths of your personal sinfulness. Forgiveness and tolerance will remain inexorably linked for eternity, provided by 33 years of life and the ultimate death on the cross. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." 




Tolerance is a worthy virtue. The picture above is exactly what I am talking about. Here Jesus asked a local women of "Samaria" for a drink of water. Being of Samaritan descent placed you very low on the social pecking order back then. They were considered half-breeds or worse, by the Jewish Nation at the time. I guess racism was alive and well even back in the 1st century. Regardless, no upstanding Jew would talk to these low-life Samaritans, much less ask for a drink of water. Sounds eerily similar to the 21st century, where one race feels superior to another, especially where color is involved. This is NT toleration in action. Jesus didn't care what her lineage had to say about her, he treated her with the same dignity and respect, he would have treated anyone. This is amazing stuff about Jesus, that I had never understood until now. Here to for, it was a nice story about a thirsty man getting a drink. Remember when Jesus talked to the thieves being crucified next to him? He treated them the same way. This is what makes our amazing Trinity, so very special. It takes all three of them to save this village, we call home.


These examples help me bridge the gap of OT legality, punishment and blood sacrifice, with our tender, merciful Savior in the NT, or in current vernacular, "PRICELESS." He literally knew us inside and out, because he chose to be one of us. When He gave His mortal life for ours, He knew exactly what He was doing, and more importantly, for whom!


God Bless...


The Digital Disciple

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