Jesus Teaches Tolerance

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. Luke  9 49-56

Here we have two lessons in tolerance. There were many exorcists in Palestine all claiming to be able to cast out demons. No doubt John regarded this man as a competitor and wanted to elininate him. The direct way from Galilee to Jerusalem lead through Samaria but most Jews  avoided it. There was a centuries’ old quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans did everything they could to hinder and even to injure any bands of pilgrims who attempted to pass through their territory. For Jesus to take that way to Jerusalem was unusual and to attempt to find hospitality in a Samaritan village was still more unusual. When Jesus did this he was extending a hand of friendship to people who were enemies. In this case not only was hospitality refused, but the offer of friendship was spurned. No doubt James and John believed they were doing the most praiseworthy thing when they offered to call in divine aid to blot out the village.

Jesus directly teaches the duty of tolerance. In many ways tolerance is a lost virtue and, when it does exist, it exists from the wrong cause. God has his own secret stairway into every heart. God fulfills himself in many ways but, and this is intensely important, tolerance must be based not on indifference but on Love. We are not tolerant because we could not care less but because we look at the other person, not with the eyes of criticism, but with the eyes of love. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being too courteous to his enemies and when he was reminded that it was his duty to destroy them he gave the great answer “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Even if a man be utterly mistaken you must never regard him as an enemy to be destroyed but as a strayed friend to be recovered by love.

William Barclay Study Bible Luke


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