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Spiritual matters

Peace means tolerance for all

September 22, 2010 - I used to think that peace meant the absence of conflict. I used to think that when the war was over we would have peace. But when the war was over others began.

There always seems to be some person or group that wants to fight, to kill and die to prove that they are right and the others are wrong. How can there ever be peace?

I now know that peace is not the absence of conflict but a conscious awareness of the divine harmony and order that transcends the inherent conflicts that we experience in this physical world. "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." John 14:20. I can envision a world where we naturally engage peacemaking skills in resolving conflicts.

When enough of us have discovered the place of peace within ourselves, the tipping point so to speak, the rest of the world will awaken to the potential for peace in us all. It is akin to the shift that came about because of those who dared to suggest that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Eventually enough people accepted this new awareness and the balance was tipped.

The greatest obstacle to peace is intolerance. A belief or policy, a thought or feeling of intolerance toward other's beliefs or practices obstructs the peace. It makes cooperation and peace difficult to achieve. Yet tolerance is rarely tolerated because it is misunderstood.

Tolerance is not approval. It is not condoning or promoting. It is recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of another. It is acceptance of the fact that my opinions and those of someone else are not always in agreement and that the other person has a right to their opinion just as I have a right to mine.

One place where there is a need for greater tolerance is in the area of religious beliefs and practices. To condemn another because they use a different name for the Divine or that their beliefs and practices are different is an act of war.

We should celebrate our diversity and honor our humanity while striving to express our divinity. In the Judeo-Christian Bible there are at least a dozen names and derivations of names for the Divine: including Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai, Allah, and Theos.

If I were to somehow travel back 2,000 years and meet with the historical Jesus, I would love to talk with him of God. Firstly, I know that he wouldn't be able to understand me because he didn't speak English. That aside, if I called him Jesus he wouldn't know that I was speaking to him. There is a dispute among scholars but, his name would have been most likely pronounced either Eeshoo or Yeshua.

Secondly, he would probably ask me who this "God" was that I had asked him about. Jesus spoke Aramaic. The name for the Divine that he used was Allah. He said, "Allah ruha oo" literally, "God is spirit" John 4:24. There is but one Spirit, though it be known by many names: Great Spirit, Infinite Spirit, Holy Spirit, God, Tao, Cosmic Consciousness, Universal Energy, etc.

I invite you assist in tipping the balance of conscious awareness toward that of peace and justice for all of God's creation. Practice loving tolerance while celebrating our diversity, honoring our humanity and expressing our divinity.

The Rev. Matthew E. Long is senior minister at Peace Unity Church & Holistic Center.

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