HE seemed so out of place in our town. He appeared to own only one set of very worn clothing. You would see him silently searching through trash containers looking for five-cent deposit cans. You couldn't help wondering if he felt merely tolerated in this prosperous community. Mere tolerance of our fellow beings, whatever their situation, indicates a need for greater compassion and constructive action, among other things. It often conceals silent annoyance and disdain toward those on the fringes of society.
There's a strong message about uncharitable attitudes, especially self-righteous judgment, in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. ``Judge not, that ye be not judged,''1 the Master admonished.
At one level, merely tolerating others works to isolate and divide mankind. It would thwart a willingness to work toward understanding and appreciating one another.
At a more crucial level, the perniciousness of such an attitude lies in its latent way of keeping us chained to a materialistic view of existence as separate from God. The belief that man is a sinning mortal living apart from some infinite but far off God is tremendously detrimental to mankind's harmony and progress. Try as we might, we can never find a stable and lasting basis for harmony without discovering something of man's inseparable relationship to God and his actual, spiritual nature.
Certainly the recognition and acceptance of man's spiritual identity, upright and eternally cared for by God, doesn't blindly ignore or callously tolerate dehumanizing levels of life. In fact, it frees us to help mankind out of degradation.
Jesus' demand to ``judge not'' included, but far exceeded, social ethics. Wasn't it a divine demand to part with false, ingrained views of man as miserable and debased, and gain the spiritual understanding that God's creation must be as spiritual and perfect as He is? At first the demand may appear inconceivable. But don't we sooner or later have to come to the conclusion that man is something infinitely more and better than what he appears to be? It's precisely because the true nature of God's creation is spiritual and perfect that humanity can be lifted up, can by degrees move toward conformity with this ideal. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, points to the possibility of being able to do this when she writes, ``Mistaken views ought to be dissolving views, since whatever is false should disappear.''2
Step by step a correct view of man can be gained through prayer. Prayer helps to elevate our perception of others with the spiritual facts of God's creation. This higher sense of things isn't something we grasp all at once. It takes patience and persistence.
Prayer is extremely practical. It doesn't gloss over the ``cold, hard facts'' or overlook the sin in human thought that needs uprooting. Rather, it helps bring to light whatever may need correcting in an individual's thought so that healing can take place. It helps destroy the inclination to justify or tolerate uncharitable condemnation. It opens our hearts to find tangible ways to express God's impartial love.
I found out what the man in our town does with the money he collects from the cans. He uses it to make regular donations to the churches in town, including my own.
His story was a mighty blow to my pride -- my mere tolerance of him. I did a lot of praying to be healed of such an attitude.
This man and I have since become friends. We usually see each other when I'm working in my local Christian Science Reading Room. Not long ago he came in wanting to talk about Christ Jesus' counsel to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said he wanted to do better at that. What he didn't realize was how much he's already taught me about brotherly love.
1See Matthew 7:1. 2Miscellaneous Writings,p. 290.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. Romans 12:10