1 Corinthians 9:19 “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
(9:20) To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
(9:21) To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
(9:22) To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
(9:23) I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
The gospel, the message of the Bible, the word of God is the same and doesn’t change. But those being preached to are not in the same circumstances. Some are very educated, some have no education, some are in primitive places, some are in advanced society. Because of their differing circumstances, they see the world differently. When the Bible teaches that Obey your parents, for one society it means kneeling and bowing down when you see or talk to your parents, while in another society it means be polite with them even if you disagree. While the gospel is the same, the preaching/teaching approach and application of the Bible message is not the same. We need tolerance because, one size doesn’t fit all!
Apostle Paul discovered that you cannot win people to Christ if you are not tolerant. Apostle Paul discovered that people will understand and interpret the same unchanging gospel from their circumstances, and the evangelist must be tolerant and adaptive. While the Bible teaches against emphasis on external beauty of jewelry, the definition of functional jewelry and non-functional jewelry is not the same. In one place all jewelry is unacceptable, while in another jewelry signifying rank or marital status is allowed. Others are extremely sensitive to all jewelry and would not allow lapel pins, tie clips, cuff links and the like, because they too are used for external beauty, but others would easily accept without questions. Apostle Paul teaches that we can’t succeed in serving God if we are not tolerant of those who think and see things differently. One size doesn’t fit all!
One community is matriarchal, meaning women take a leading role. Another society and actually most are patriarchal, meaning men take the leading role. While many societies are embracing equality of men and women. All these societies agree with Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But they interpret it completely differently. Others use it to liberate women in all things. Others see it to mean all will be saved but society standard haven’t changed, they remain patriarchal. Tolerance is inevitable if we are to live with each other and preach to each other. One size doesn’t fit all!
The biggest problem affecting Evangelistic work is that we have many intolerant people within the ranks of the church. A report on unreached people who need baptism or are baptized will not elicit much discussion in their groups. But if a picture of a church leader wearing a bangle is seen…the heated discussion that will follow…is enough to generate electric power to run a town. They will not care to ask why the bangle was worn, or what circumstances the leader is…their interest will be to condemn because the leader didn’t adhere to their village standards which they think are universal. For them one size must fit all and that size is their size, or else they go to hell. They would consider Apostle Paul to have compromised the faith by using the methodology of adapting. To succeed in the mission of the church, we need to know that one size doesn’t fit all!
Even in the same society, we must bear with those who are slow learners and those who are struggling to adapt. Tolerance, because one size doesn’t fit all!
Tolerance is different from adoption. When dealing with practices which are outright prohibited by the Bible, we do not adopt, we tolerate until we win them to Christ. Failure to tolerate means we write them off as un-saveable, irredeemable and hopeless. To fail to tolerate is to take the place of God and determine people’s destiny. To fail to tolerate is to fail God. Tolerance doesn’t accept sin, it bears with the sinner until they completely reject the gospel or accept it. Tolerance appreciates that uniformity is not possible in a world deliberately created diverse with endless variety and perceptions. Tolerance leaves judgment to God. Tolerance embraces what is different without necessarily adopting. Tolerance understands that global village phenomenon will cause us to review non-biblical standards we had set and made people to believe they are biblical. Tolerance will send us back to regularly study scripture to be sure what is adoptable and what is avoidable. Tolerance is about the sinner and not sin. Tolerance doesn’t prevent anyone from calling sin by its name, but its done in love without offending. Tolerance is a realisation that one size doesn’t fit all!
Isaiah 56:7 “…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The church was designed by God for all, not just those who see things and interpret things as you do. Standard of salvation is that it’s free for all. Practices are not the same but sin is violation of God’s will in all communities. The church is for all, including those we differ with in certain practices. We agree in doctrines and we are moving, moving, moving towards unity. We tolerate people as a strategy to win them to Christ. Until we win those in church and those outside, we must remain tolerant. Meanwhile tolerance is key because one size doesn’t fit all!
The intolerant cannot serve God, they can pretend to but can’t and will not receive eternal life. We need tolerance in church, in politics, in sports, in family, in business, in every aspect of life. May God grant us tolerance in Jesus name. Amen!
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