I am challenged by Paul’s invitation to the Philippians in 3:17 to, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” A few years ago I read an interview of John Stott in which he was asked about the greatest challenges to the church in the 21st Century. He surprised me by making tolerance the number one challenge – as well as a coveted virtue of the church.
Christians should be in the forefront in fighting for equal rights before the law of all ethnic and religious minorities. The church should also actively show social tolerance by going out of our way to make friends with adherents of other faiths, since they are God's creation who bear his image. But the third, intellectual tolerance, which is to cultivate a mind so broad and open as to accommodate all views and reject none, is, in Stott’s word’s, “the vice of the feebleminded.”
By rejecting this feebleminded tolerance the church then properly defines outreach as evangelism and not proselytism, the latter occurring when our motives, methods or message are unworthy. When we properly understand our call to tolerance we make room for evangelism which is (in terms of the Manila Manifesto), “To make an open and honest statement of the gospel, which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it.”
This then brings me back to Paul’s appeal to the Philippians which calls us to be what we profess to be. The covenant still challenges us to look like what we are talking about: This makes the church’s main concern that we look like what we are talking about..
1 John 4:12: "No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God dwells in us." The invisible God, who once made himself visible in Christ, now makes himself visible in Christians, if we love one another.