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You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery;'                but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.                If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.                If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.                'It was also said, 'Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,'                but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery.                'Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,'                but I tell you, don't swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God;                nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.                Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can't make one hair white or black.                But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' be 'No.' Whatever is more than these is of the evil one.                'You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'*                But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.                If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.                Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.                Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you.                'You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor,* and hate your enemy.*'                But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,                that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.               
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An Orthodox Reflection on Truth and Tolerance
   

Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou

Orthodox Christianity is committed to the truth claim of the Christian Faith. This claim includes the Biblical truth that all human beings are created by God in His image and that Christ is the only Savior of the world.

Consequently, Orthodoxy is strongly committed to Christ as the Messiah and to the tolerance of other religious expressions. In this double commitment lies the source of a creative tension for Orthodox Christians involved in the interfaith dialogue and attitudes of the non-Christian religions.

Orthodoxy affirms continually the centrality of Christ in the Church and world. He is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Orthodox Christians are committed to the truth claim of the Christian Faith not as ideology but as an expression of holiness. At the same time Orthodoxy is committed to the tolerance of other religious expressions.

Orthodox Christian people most often live in societies of cultural, linguistic and religious pluralism. For that reason, the Orthodox have developed an attitude of respect for others, and a tolerance and understanding for people of other faiths. The Orthodox Church does not have an "official" pronouncement expressing the attitude toward other religions. However, Orthodoxy has a long-standing tradition showing respect and tolerance for people of other faiths. It is well-stated by an Orthodox Christian theologian and Archbishop, Anastasios Yannoulatos, of Albania, that, "being created in the image of God, every human being is our brother and sister."

It is a strong Orthodox view that our commitment to the Christian truth claim must affirm a pluralistic democratic setting for all people to live in peace and harmony. Orthodoxy holds fast to the truth of Christianity and defends the right of other religious expressions to co-exist in harmony in a democratic system where the law equally protects all.

The question of truth is of highest importance to Orthodoxy. "What is Truth?" Pontius Pilate asked (John 18:38). Christ kept silent. Christians interpret this silence as His reply that the "Truth" was standing before him - Christ is the "Truth." "Truth" makes reference to the knowledge of being. Tolerance "implies a certain relationship of religious faith with truth in every concrete manifestation in the world, whether national political or sociological" (Damaskinos Papandreou, "Truth and Tolerance in Orthodoxy"). The source of all truth is God the Creator, who gives existence to all beings. God is the originator and the human being is the receiver.

For Orthodoxy there is a fusion between the truth claim of Christianity and a mandate for tolerance. We may say that one cannot be a Christian if he/ she does not embrace the doctrine of tolerance as a mandate of Christian love.

This most significant teaching of tolerance in Orthodoxy is contained in an encyclical letter of Ecumenical Patriarch Metrophanes III (1520-1580). This document was written to the Greek Orthodox in Crete (1568) upon hearing of the mistreatment of the Jews. In it he states, "Injustice, therefore, is and stands, regardless to whomever acted upon or performed against, as still injustice.

The unjust person is never relieved of the responsibility of these unjust acts under the pretext that the injustice done is done against a heterodox and not to a believer. As our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels said, "Do not oppress or accuse anyone falsely; do not make any distinction or give room to the believers to injure those of another belief."

I close with the thought that all human beings are the children of God created in His image, and tolerance of other people having different faith is an imperative commend given by Christ himself. I am also committed to the words of our Lord, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).

Source: Boston Theological Institute, BTI Newsletter, Newton Centre, MA





Published - January 2011









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