things Jesus didn’t say # 8 | tolerance

17 06 2014

“Faith, hope and tolerance. And the greatest of these is tolerance.” 1 Corinthians 13, in the “Bland British Values” version, soon to be taught in schools across the country alongside that version of history in which we simply tolerated workhouses, feudalism, Nazism and duck houses. thingsjesusdidntsay8tolerance

Is tolerance even a value? Yes it is, and it can be a good one. Is it one of the greatest? No. As Jeremy Hardy said on the News Quiz, “Are we really going to teach an orphaned, traumatised refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo to say ‘mustn’t grumble’?” 

Tolerance can be a virtue. Surely we’d rather be known as tolerant than intolerant. Except. Except. We are intolerant of injustice. We are intolerant of persecution. We are intolerant of bullying. Of slavery. Of domestic violence. We are intolerant of political ideology that squeezes private profit from anything that moves, even Child Protection services. We are intolerant of NHS managers getting pay rises before nurses. We are intolerant of the elite ruling political class being vacuous of compassion and labour rights and a sense of collective responsibility.

We are intolerant of the fact that we have reduced the call to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God into a bland aspiration to merely tolerate each other, and for that to somehow be a good thing.

Tolerance. It has it’s place. But it’s got nothing on sacrificial love, thirst for justice, unending kindness and generosity of heart. Those are values to be proud of.


slave waver

10 02 2012

there was no apple

When the writers of the Bible talk about people in being in slavery to sin it all seems a bit, well, harsh. Slavery? How many of us would say we are enslaved to sin? The language calls to mind images of the devil binding us in chains or possessing us in some scary poltergeisty sort of way. We may prefer to think that we flirt with sin, we may clothe ourselves occasionally, because actually it is just a bit of fun. Isn’t sin more fun anyway? Better to be in slavery to sin that befriended by boredom? Read here about evil and sin actually being pretty dull and banal and boring.

I  had 2 conversations with people a while back that went something like this.


Me: Why did you assault my friend?
Person a: I had to defend my family.
Me: Perhaps that wasn’t the best way to react?
Person a: I can’t help it, it is how my family always react. It is in my genes. It is just the way I am.

Conversation 2:

Person b: why did you grass on my son?
Me: Because he was doing something dangerous and illegal.
Person b: We don‘t grass on estates. You want to be careful doing things like that round here.

My point is that neither of those men would say they are enslaved to sin; I would not say that to them either! But their reactions as grown men to situations around them come from a position of slavery. To the gene pool, to the domination system, to ‘the way things are’, the way that oppresses freely because that is how life is. I don’t say that as a value judgement on them. I honestly think they think they have no choice. They have seen no other way that works. As I wrote following the Faithworks Conference, that is exactly the kind of slavery that Jesus came to free us from.

It does not need to be that way. Our character need not be defined by our genes, our family and our upbringing, though they will always be part of who we are. Our character can be defined by the Holy Spirit living in us. The system of domination and fear that we live in and support by living in it does not need to define us. We can be defined by the kingdom of God not the kingdom of fear.

I pray for slave waver in our community. Where anger is replaced by patience, fear by love, fists by feasts. When teenagers talk about something other than sex and slagging each other and don’t need to get a rush from being (nearly) nicked; when men can  be real men instead of being something they think they ought to be and women can be themselves without fear of being judged or taken for granted or simply ignored.

My deepest longing is that this slave waver happens because people meet Jesus and by his Holy Spirit they are transformed and sanctified and other wonderfully big words and maybe I even mentioned being saved but… but… I kinda just want it to happen anyway whether or not they discover Jesus. Through our influence or through nothing to do with us. If slaves waver and the world gets better and looks more like the kingdom, I’m not so worried about why…

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