Somewhere in the lexicon of Christian thought, the idea of tolerance crept in to suggest this was the whole and final conclusion one should draw from Christ’s teaching. I think the idea has seeped into our collective conscious from a culture clamoring only for a surface understanding. To believe this as the whole of Christ’s life is a failure of reasonable men to read what is plain in the Gospels—Christ was a most intolerant Savior. He came to draw a line between God’s way and man’s, to reveal to me and you the insidious means of darkness, and thereby, the saving grace of light. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14, NKJV).
Tolerance often means I should sacrifice Christian truth by accepting a teaching not of my faith. But God imbedded within me an experience in my youth, a belief formed through a relationship of circumstance. When I reflect on spiritual things, I keep meeting Daniel in that place where the past mingles with the present and stains me with permanence, where truth takes form and rises ever so gently from that mingling allowing me to utter those words—no, that’s not right. This is the lasting sum of our friendship, a crossing enabling me to discern the ideas failing the truth of our relationship. Our meeting of worlds prepared me for what was to come.
That time was not so simple. In late 1960’s Orangeburg, S.C., I lived among a white population who exhibited the generational attitude of master. I lived among a majority Black population who exhibited all the descendant stereotypes of slavery. I heard the descriptions—they’re lazy, they’re ignorant, they’re less. I knew Daniel could read or write little, but he was not lazy and he was not ignorant. In my eyes neither was he less. I looked up to him. His interest in me formed a foundation for my beliefs, a lens colored by his presence, though I did not know it at the time and would not for years. I will confess I simply avoided the issue.
Time, if granted, ordains restoration if we understand it is God’s will. I have been so blessed with time and a soul restored, both with God and with the lesson my time with Daniel imparted. A plain reading of my friendship with him would story an innocence unaffected by the time. But I was affected.
Our past reaches across years and influences our present. If faith, my faith, means anything, it surfaces from a depth I do not understand into who I am. Because Daniel and I bonded, I am a different person. His quiet influence, rising into the present, intermingles with my every day being. To ignore it suggests I would be tolerant of something less. I cannot. To be for something suggests intolerance for less in myself and life. Our time is not simple. In the quiet pedestrian movement of life, let me be for Christ.