“Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth. No, I tell you, but rather division.”
These words do not sound like they came from the mouth of Jesus, but most assuredly they did. We need to remember that in John’s Gospel, on the night before he died, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. Yes, this Spirit of truth whom, alas, the world cannot receive …”
The keyword is truth, and truth cannot be built on a lie and the precise problem is that the world cannot receive too much truth. Truth telling always comes at a price, and brings division. The lack of truth in some families, as they avoid rocking the boat, wrecks many relationships. Some communities pretending that they don’t harbour racism yet diminish many lives. Nations who don’t admit their oppression of certain groups to enhance their economy. MPs milking the system for obscene amounts of money. Company directors paying themselves overly inflated salaries and bonuses, while paying barely living wages to their employees.
Not telling the truth, afraid to rock the boat, wanting to keep the “peace” create a pretence and Jesus wants us to be open to the “Spirit of Truth” that goes to the core of our faith. We seem to allow that if we dare to speak truth we may earn the dreaded label of “INTOLERANT”. We must remember that “intolerance” means disagreement with punishment, as pogroms, inquisitions, and forced sensitivity training sessions testify. True tolerance, on the other hand, is disagreement but without punishment. But it is still disagreement and we are right, without rancour and with charity, to make challenges and to bear witness. We can’t do this, and set the world on fire, if we take politically corrected tolerance to mean “live and let live.”
A false tolerance means no judgement, not witness, no truth, no divisions. False tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” The Christian response is, “I must do something harder: I will love you even when your bad behaviour – and it is that – offends me.” False tolerance says, “You must agree with me.” The Christian response is, I must do something harder: I will tell you the truth because I’m convinced that the truth will set you free.
“He offended no one” is a poor and accusatory motto on a gravestone. We Christians need to learn how to set the world on fire.