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“Tolerate Others as I Have Tolerated You”- Jesus?
14/08/2019 12:03:30 PM | Katie Kingsthwaite
We live in a world that is categorised and disconnected. We make sense of the world by sorting people into groups, by creating false ideas of ‘us’ and ‘them’, by allowing differences to become divisions.
The problem is, this is the birthplace of mistrust, fear and hate.
We get stuck in self-perpetuating cycles, where because I don’t engage with you, I don’t understand you and because of that, I don’t trust you, and because I don’t trust you, I don’t engage with you, and then I understand you less and less… and it just goes on.
And the root of this, is that we are so often just disconnected from one another, because we so rarely engage with people that seem different from us.
And we say, it’s not our fault. We aren’t actively racist or discriminatory, so surely, we’re not the problem.
Whether or not that is true, I am certain that we can be part of the solution.
People are hard to hate up close.
We must move in.
Hear the stories of people whose experiences are so different from our own.
Because as we listen and connect, it is so much harder for division, fear and anger to grow.
We have the opportunity to build bridges, to connect with people, to say those simple words.
And I believe that is what we are called to do as Christians.
Following March 15, there were many conversations about religious tolerance.
But isn’t that setting the bar too low?
The definition of tolerance is ‘to allow the existence of something that one disagrees with’.
Yet Jesus doesn’t tell us to ‘tolerate one another as I have tolerated you’.
That is far too passive.
We are called to love.
It’s a verb, an action.
To love is to build intentional friendships. To connect with the disconnected. To not allow fear to divide us.
To love, is to do as Jesus did, and to welcome our neighbour.
In my work on the response to March 15, I have had the privilege of seeing in action, loving, cross-cultural friendship, in the face of terror.
This has been invitations to join Muslim friends as they broke fast at the end of the day during Ramadan.
It has been watching a Christian woman sleeping at the house of a recently resettled Syrian refugee for 10 nights, whilst her husband recovered in hospital after the attacks.
It has been the patience and warmth shown by the local Halal grocer, when attempting to work out what is an appropriate gift for a Muslim friend.
It has been sitting round a table, Muslims and Christians and praying together.
It has been many moments.
Some big, but mostly small.
Small moments of connection, of friendship, of love.
In my job it has been easy to observe these.
But I also know that what I have seen is only the tip of the iceberg. That cross-cultural connections exist and are constantly being formed and strengthened all across our country. And we all have the opportunity to do this in our everyday lives.
I found it helpful to think about what things I do frequently, in which I could better engage with people or groups, I usually wouldn’t. This looked like going to the local Middle Eastern grocer to buy fresh dates for my dad, instead of the supermarket down the road. It looked like instead of reading books that reinforce what I know, trying to learn and understand more about things that I do not.
For you, it might look like walking to school with your kids and the family of a different ethnic background from down the road. It might look like inviting your friend of a different religion in for coffee.
What cross-cultural friendship looks like for you, will be unique. But it really only needs one thing to start it.
Jesus didn’t just talk about loving our neighbour.
He did it.
Building cross-cultural friendships, overcoming division, connecting with and loving ALL those within our communities, our city and our world.
Is that not the outliving of our faith?
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