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Colossian Blog
August 24, 2016 | Rob Barrett

Listening and Tolerance: What’s the Difference?

The Colossian Forum advocates we should listen to those we disagree with. Do you mean we should tolerate all views, even errors? 

Our differences aren’t inconveniences to be tolerated

Listening to Christian brothers and sisters certainly helps us understand where they’re coming from. Often we even start to sympathize with them. But what do we do after we start to understand someone we disagree with?

Many suggest that tolerance should be our goal. Difference is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but we allow space for others to chart their own course. Tolerance preaches agreeing to disagree, leaving each other alone.

But The Colossian Forum believes that Christians are called to something much better—and more difficult—than tolerance. We belong to Christ and to each other. We share a common life, which Paul likens to a body (1 Corinthians 12). Many of our differences are intentionally given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can build up Christ’s body (vv. 7, 11). Our differences aren’t inconveniences to be tolerated, but gifts for our overall good. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (v. 21). The eye doesn’t tolerate the hand. It loves and serves it.

But eyes think differently from hands. A healthy body coordinates its members across differences. We must listen to work together.

Yet sometimes difference comes from one part really getting it wrong. The hand suffers if the eye is blind. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (v. 26). If the hand is to help an ailing eye, it has to think like an eye. This is hard work. It is our calling. The goal of Christ’s body is not tolerance of difference, but building up the body amidst difference. So we must listen.

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