Enforcing Faith Can Lead to Intolerance

Article excerpt

Byline: FROM HEART TO HEART By LeRoy Hershizer For The Register-Guard

Aware of the counsel of Paul to the congregation at Corinth, I make no claim to being anything other than a disciple of Christ, a Christian sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ. Even at age 74, as a retired pastor, I am still trying to learn and to listen to what the promised Spirit is saying.

I thank God for Eugene First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and our pastor, Dan Bryant. Every week he continues to challenge me to a ministry that affirms all people, particularly the disenfranchised.

Unity is the polar star of my faith: unity not for myself and those who believe like me because we are right, but for our mission because we are called. Every day there is something that is said or done that reminds me that the unity of the church should be a matter of the discernment of the Spirit that brings us together in mission, not ideological consensus that often divides, separates and distracts us.

It is my observation that there are some who spend their lives trying to live by and enforcing the laws of the faith much like the religious leaders did in the time of Jesus. To strive to "live by" is commendable and leads to tolerance. To "enforce" (change the behavior rather than the heart) often leads to intolerance. If Jesus ever indicated any intolerance, it was against the religious enforcers.

Jesus went against many of the religious (often also political) rules and regulations and practices being enforced. Doing so resulted in name-calling, character assassination and, finally, his condemnation and the cross. …