One thing I love about my local church fellowship, which is something that I recall characterised Alcoholics Anonymous, is tolerance. It never ceases to amaze me the grace many of my brothers and sisters exercise when approaching others who Rick Warren coined are “Extra Grace Required” or “EGR” people.
For instance, churches attract all varieties of broken people, from the physically and spiritually broken to the emotionally and mentally broken. Yet, we’re all the same, in Christ. But this is not an easy concept to get our heads around. And our observed tolerance is the mark of our success (or lack thereof) regarding this.
At recent services certain members of the congregation who’re incapacitated mentally have made their typical outbursts during worship. But, look around at any point and you only see these people being loved. As a Christian, it’s nothing short of inspiring to see this... to see the ‘lovely’ (by virtue of their tolerance) loving the ‘unlovely,’ for God sees us all unstained, unwrinkled--through Christ, our Mediator.
From my experience, grace in ways of tolerance is something that is learned from seeing others actually practice it, in a meeting environment and one on one. It’s so other-worldly that it smacks us right on the nose when we see it.
As a former AA and a secretary of a local meeting I was often in a position to see veteran members of the fellowship display Christ’s tolerance to the unlovely--those still in the grips of heavy drink. They always seemed to know how to treat each situation, with appreciable gentleness or firmness, but with an underpinning tolerance.
When we have physical, mental, emotional or spiritual incapacity in our midst, we have a friend in Jesus who can show us how to love these both bravely and tolerantly.
And generally it’s not the physically incapacitated that we fear--it’s the incapacitation we can see but can’t explain. It has moral implications for us, as we endure a perplexing moral fight deep within. Does that effectively explain a lack of tolerance when we see it, perhaps?
Whilst the presence of the incapacitated might reveal something in us that produces fear, fear of not knowing what to say or how to deal with situations, we should know tolerance is the key.
And Jesus is the master of tolerance. This tolerance is held aloft by faith; not knowing authoritatively, but doing-right-in-faith in any event. Our confidence of provision is in God. In him, in this way at least, is an eternal tolerance.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.