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Tolerance vs. Prejudice

"Realizing that everyone is at varying levels of character development"

 

 TOLERANCE-A Five-Minute Study
Faith Committee, Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Contributed by Craig E. Beckley
Teacher, Moores Hill, Indiana
February 23, 2002

TOLERANCE vs. Prejudice
Realizing that everyone is at varying levels of character development.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE - THE APOSTLE PAUL

Coming from a Pharisaical background, Paul, the apostle, had been educated to believe that he and his fellow Pharisees were the only ones that were holding to the true Jewish faith. But God wrought a remarkable change in him. As he later wrote to the Corinthians, who he is, is not important, but what he is to others is extremely important.

"...I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
(1 Corinthians 9:22)

Paul was ready to spread the Gospel wherever he could, and was not overly concerned that those who were lost live up to his standards. But he also realized that he could not expect from others, a standard that he did not live up to himself.

"But I pommel my body and subdue, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.." (1 Corinthians 9:27)

And what was that standard? It was Christlikeness:

"Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul realized his own inadequacies and knew that others had inadequacies also. How could he expect a higher standard of others than he expected of himself? He learned to accept the differences that he saw in others, not because they were better or worse, but because they were of little importance in light of what God wanted to accomplish.

Did Paul hold the differing qualities of life, of those that he ministered to, as more important than their salvation? No. He saw himself on a journey to becoming like Christ, and it mattered to him where others were on their journey. How could he help them to become more Christlike? Surely not by pointing out their differences!

As he matured in Christ Paul saw himself as less and less important, and the release of the love of God toward others as more and more important.

TOLERANCE IN OUR LIVES -

Do you have standards that you tout because they are a way to cause you to “shine” above others? But standards which, in the purposes of God, are really of little or no importance? Are you willing to accept the differences of others, in order to be a tool in the hand of God to bring salvation and Christlikeness to them? Are you willing to die to everything in your life, so that the nature of Jesus shines through?

Here are five “I will” principles whose practice will help us incorporate the character quality of tolerance into our lives (write these on a poster, board, or overhead transparency).

  1. I will not confuse what is right with what is popular.
  2. I will expect the same of myself as I expect of others.
  3. I will look for ways to help others mature.
  4. I will accept my own unchangeables and the unchangeables of others.
  5. I will listen before I form an opinion.

TOLERANCE IN MY LIFE THIS WEEK -

Closing #1: Let’s dialog about it with one another.

    • Shift the group into small discussion groups of 3-4.
    • Encourage groups to list the hindrances in their own lives to practicing tolerance in their families and with acquaintances.
    • Ask groups to share their feelings with the whole group.

Closing #2: Let’s close in silent prayer, ask God:

    • To forgive you for things in your life that cause you to focus on yourself instead of the needs that are around you.
    • To show you how to practice tolerance in your life.
    • To make you aware of opportunities to grow in this character quality.

This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.