Howard Coop, 32°

Genuine understanding of, respect for, acceptance of, and trust in others are the firm foundations upon which enduring relationships may be established.

On the way to a meeting during which some of the pressing social issues confronting our society were to be discussed, I stopped at the airport to pick up one of the discussion leaders who had flown in from his office in Chicago to participate in the seminar. As we made our way to the seminar, we had a delightful conversation. It was not long, however, until my friend and traveling companion turned the conversation to the need for tolerance regarding social issues.

There is much intolerance in our society. In one instance, intolerance may be expressed as a slight when an individual or a group is treated with indifference and disrespect. At other times, expressions of intolerance are more hideous. They erupt as violent outbursts of hatred directed at both individuals and groups manifesting themselves in acts that hurt and, sometimes, kill persons and destroy both private and public property.

Surrounded with such strong attitudes of intolerance, our society repeatedly emphasizes the need for tolerance. We are reminded frequently of its importance in all relationships, and we are admonished to be tolerant of other persons and their ideas. Tolerance is heralded as one of the great virtues of life and a key principle upon which relationships with others must be established. Sensitive to this situation, in 1995 the United Nations called for the observance of an International Year of Toleration.

Yet in our complex society or in any society, tolerance is not enough to provide the rock-solid foundation upon which significant relationships can be built. Tolerance is defined as "allowing the views, beliefs, practices of others."Furthermore, to be tolerant is to be "inclined to permit or put up with others’ beliefs and practices."This is not the right basis for establishing good and enduring human relationships. Something more than an ability to bear with others must be the foundation of meaningful and enduring human relationships.

Such relations must be constructed upon something which is larger in scope and more substantial than toleration. That something is love, but it is not sentimental or romantic love. It is nothing less than the idea expressed in agape, which is best understood as pure, selfless love. This love comes from God and is sacrificial in its nature. It is completely unselfish. It does not insist upon its own way, but gives itself away. It is a never-ending love that "Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things"(I Corinthians 13:7). This is the love the Master of Nazareth commended when saying, "Love one another"(John 15:17).

This type of love is practical. It is not expressed in "word or speech but in deed and truth"(I John 3:18). It calls for genuine understanding of, respect for, acceptance of, and trust in others. This is the one firm foundation upon which enduring relationships may be established.

Howard Coop
is a retired United Methodist Minister and has been a Mason since 1952. He is a Past Master of Lancaster Lodge No. 104, currently serving as Chaplain, a member of Lancaster Chapter No. 56 R.A.M. and the Scottish Rite Bodies of Louisville, Kentucky.