Children, Youth and Families Worker

From Tolerance to Acceptance

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:35-37

It has been wonderful this week to continue to get to know staff and students, and even to introduce myself to some parents at the kiss and ride in the mornings and afternoons. It is hard to believe I am already in my sixth week at the school!

This week we have considered the idea of tolerance and acceptance as part of a framework for living meaningfully in a challenging world. Tolerance is closely linked to the golden rule (do unto others) in that if we want to be treated well, we also need to do likewise to others. Acceptance though is a little more challenging. If tolerance is the ability to ‘put up’ with a person or issue, then acceptance moves us towards being ‘ok’ with that person or issue. This might seem a small distinction but the movement from one to the other is a powerful and liberating process which offers us the freedom to respond to people in love and compassion rather than simply living with the reality of those who are different from us.

In the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is questioned about the definition of the word ‘neighbour’. Well, may we say ‘love thy neighbour’, but the devil is, inevitably, in the detail. Jesus responds, as he often does, by telling a story. A reminder to us that there are no easy answers to difficult questions. The story he tells involves two seemingly holy men who ignore a neighbour in need and a third man who offers aid. This man is a Samaritan, an ethnic group maligned and ostracized by the Jewish majority. Jesus asks who the true neighbour was to the injured man, and his questioner is forced to concede that it was indeed the Samaritan.

This story is more than a morality tale reminding us to do good. It is a scandalous reversal of social order. It is a reminder that our prejudices towards others offer us nothing but a distorted view of life, holding us back from being the people we are meant to be – people of love. We shouldn’t merely tolerate our neighbours – those around us with whom we differ – but rather open ourselves to the possibility that such people are for us Jesus in our midst. Capable of compassion, love and service just as we are. If we are able to move from mere tolerance to acceptance and understanding, we open ourselves to the reality of God’s love – a breaking through of our prejudices and biases to see all people for what they really are – children of the God who names us and calls us home.

Mark Thornton
Children, Youth and Families Worker