Over the years I’ve taught preaching in university courses and mentored a number of preaching apprentices and preachers-in-training. This series summarizes some of the most basic yet most useful preaching points I’ve emphasized in these settings.
I hope you’ll join the fantastic Jim Martin and me as we teach “Preaching That Connects” at Harding School of Theology (Memphis, TN) Feb. 28-Mar. 7, 2013. This D. Min. course promises to be practical and inspiring.
Preaching Point #13: The Tolerance Factor - We must preach a Christianity that represents, protects, loves and respects all people.
Tolerance is the reigning value in today’s culture. Travel and technology have brought us into contact with more cultures and lifestyles than ever before. And in the face of this diversity, culture counsels us to respect one another, love one another, protect those who are marginalized because of their differences, and represent those who have no voice due to their unique circumstances.
While tolerance has a limit (that’s the next preaching factor), it is something which must regularly appear in our preaching. One of the greatest criticisms today of the church and of the Christian faith is that they are intolerant. To a certain degree, however, this is absolutely false. No one was more tolerant than Jesus.
Preaching in the 21st century can help listeners gain a deeper appreciation for Jesus as one who represents, protects, loves and respects all people. One place where this aspect of Jesus’ ministry is highlighted is Luke’s Gospel. I’ve long loved Eugene Peterson’s introduction to Luke in “The Message”:
“Most of us, most of the time, feel left out—misfits. We don’t belong. Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, ‘insiders’ who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded. One of the ways we have of responding to this is to form our own club, or join one that will have us. Here is at least one place where we are ‘in’ and the others ‘out.’ The clubs range from informal to formal in gatherings that are variously political, social, cultural, and economic. But the one thing they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savor the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life. Nowhere is this price more terrible than when it is paid in the cause of religion. But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a ‘membership.’ But with God there are no outsiders. Luke is the most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: woman, common laborers (sheep-herders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.”
One of the most important things our preaching can do is help listeners realize that Jesus accepts those whom others reject and that his ministry operated more on the principle of inclusion than exclusion.
How do you highlight Jesus’ tolerance in your preaching?