Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Many attempts at unity fail because they are based on tolerance instead of respect. There are bound to be differences of opinion amongst a community of what that community is being called to do. We can't expect someone to just accept our opinion and change theirs without divine intervention. Furthermore it's not enough to just tolerate another's opinion. Though we are often admonished to be tolerant of others who at not like us in one way or the other, it is my contention that tolerance is based on an elitist attitude that the other is somehow inferior or misinformed. This is detrimental to living in unity, especially as a Quaker community. However, if we have taken the time to form relationships with each other we can reach a point where we can respect the other's opinion or lifestyle. Paul's analogy of the physical body's need for its various members is again apropo. An eye can never understand what it is to be an arm, however it can appreciate and respect what the arm can do. It can also appreciate how together with that arm it can avoid harm and do good, all while never understanding what it is like to be an arm.
As Quakers we need to respect the spiritual journey our fellow Quakers are on. If we have taken the time to form relationships with them we have learned of their spiritual beliefs, yearnings, trials and victories. Knowing how difficult our own spiritual journey has been and might still be we should be able to respect anyone who is seeking more of the Light in their life. Sometimes we will have a greater understanding of where they are at than they do but that doesn't necessarily diminish in any way our respect for their steadfastness or patience in following their own unique leadings. The respect that I advocate is the opposite of the judgment that Jesus spoke against when He warned his disciples to judge not lest you be judged. It is one thing to discern the correctness of another's behavior, it is another to judge another based on his behavior. It is here where we have to remember not to judge until we have walked a mile in the other's shoes. Until we can respect each other's walk, we can not expect true unity.