By NEMS Daily Journal
Issues of intolerance, especially religious intolerance within, among and outside many well-known faith traditions, characterizes some of the worst human situations in 2013.
In Syria, in Bahrain, in some regions of Africa and even among the pluralistic societies of Western Europe and North America, a kind of cultural distemper – in the sense of upsetting a balance – is widespread and harmful.
Paul the Apostle, who is credited with writing much of the New Testament, made an enduring and particularly compelling statement about tolerance in the context of love in 1 Corinthians 13:
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. … Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. … For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
The great John Wesley, founder of Methodism, wrote in his notes on 1 Corinthians 13, “The love of God, and of our neighbor for God’s sake, is patient toward all …men. It suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end. And in every step toward overcoming evil with good, it is kind, soft, mild, benign. It inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection.
“Love acteth not rashly – Does not hastily condemn any one; never passes a severe sentence on a slight or sudden view of things. Nor does it ever act or behave in a violent, headstrong, or precipitate manner.
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part … The wisest of men have here but short, narrow, imperfect conceptions, even of the things round about them, and much more of the deep things of God.”
Henri Nouwen, the 20th century Roman Catholic priest and writer, said in “Bread for the Journey,” “How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love – fear, hatred, violence and abuse?
“ …Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”