Sophmoric Homiletics: Tolerance (pre-draft)

When I asked Father Andrew (the priest of my parish) for suggestions for a homily or short talk on the New Testament he suggested talk on the theme of tolerance, which was a theme for articles in this months parish newsletter. For myself the following came to mind. (John 8)

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

A suggestion at Evangel as well was from Romans 14:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since she gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Others suggested Revelations 2, Romans 12: 17-21, and Mark 2:15-17 as well a general reference to Jesus commandment that we love each other.

As is often the case, I before I begin a draft … out comes the dread bullet list.

  • As a classmate pointed out, tolerance is not indifference. This is an important point which is often missed.
  • What is tolerance anyhow? The dictionary offers, i.e., Webster, has one applicable definition as “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.”
  • There is a problem with both of these and it is indeed a similar “problem” as the arises in other context of ethics and the gospel. As an aside, I have in mind here the putting together of man as head of household and the notion that he who would be first need be last. But to get back on topic … let’s locate the kernel of these notions in (apparent) conflict. Typically those beliefs or practices differing from our own are particularly those we find wrong, heretical, or sinful. Yet, Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am first (emphasis on the first person pronoun there). Or to put it another way, how am I to not show indifference but instead tolerance to my neighbor when the log in my eye dwarfs the speck in his. Yet I cannot (or should not) be indifferent to his actions, after all I we are instructed to love him.
  • Perhaps a way out of this is to recall in our first class the discussions we had regarding the social anthropology introduced in the first class, that is cultural differences between the society in which we dwell today and the society that existed in the environment in which the gospel was placed. Let me explain. The H/S (honor/shame) cultures differ from ours in that in measures how they and we regard the individual vs group and status in society based on wealth or reputation and position in a social group by these measures our cultures lie on opposite ends of these measures. Jesus did not reject the H/S shape of society but restructured it, changing how group was defined as well as how status was measured, i.e., different virtues being valued differently. Thus, Jesus and the early church did not supplant or replace the H/S cultural alignment to group but replaced the primary group being family and clan with the Church and the status evaluation was one that flowed not so much from societies class and status challenges but with one centred on God.
  •  One of the features of H/S cultures is that there is no honor or status challenge that is possible between non-equals. Challenges to status can be only made by status peers. So, these people you see for whom tolerance (recall the above definition) is a pointed issue … where do they stand with you regarding a evaluation of them as peer or not?

3 responses to “Sophmoric Homiletics: Tolerance (pre-draft)

  1. Or to put it another way, how am I to not show indifference but instead tolerance to my neighbor when the log in my eye dwarfs the speck in his. Yet I cannot (or should not) be indifferent to his actions, after all I we are instructed to love him.

    Don’t really have the complete answer for you but you may want to explore this question: In our instincts to politicize and ideologicalize everything, the first glance right wing reaction to this issue might be to assume tolerance is liberal and we have too much of it. But maybe the question should be turned on its head in the spirit of making the first last and last first. To whom do I show the most tolerance? Myself or my neighbor?

  2. And, you may want to use the image of the rich man passing through the needle. If I reserve all my tolerance for myself will I make it through?

  3. Or to put it another way, how am I to not show indifference but instead tolerance to my neighbor when the log in my eye dwarfs the speck in his. Yet I cannot (or should not) be indifferent to his actions, after all I we are instructed to love him.

    Don’t really have the complete answer for you but you may want to explore this question: In our instincts to politicize and ideologicalize everything, the first glance right wing reaction to this issue might be to assume tolerance is liberal and we have too much of it. But maybe the question should be turned on its head in the spirit of making the first last and last first. To whom do I show the most tolerance? Myself or my neighbor?

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