I have been thinking about several things that have impressed me the past few days.
One was the attitude of two totally different people towards those who were questioning their convictions and commitments.
I wrote about Mike Huckabee's response to an atheist in this blog not long ago. I was impressed with how he responded with respect, instead of reacting in defensiveness or hostility. I also was impressed with Bart Ehrman's response to an interview and his moderate and deferiential attitude toward the interviewer. Two very different people, but similar in their attitudes. It has something to do with character, values, and civil discourse.
The civility toward those who were different in values, conviction and commitment was something to respect and desire to emulate. Some Christians believe that unless you hold to uniformity of commitment, you are not fully commited, may not love God, Etc. Etc. These types of believers think that their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, behavior and way of life is the eptiome of truth and should be the standard for all believers. Their example is to followed and this, they think, is "making disciples". I find this attitude the height of arrogance, as no one should decide or determine another's way of life, as to the values, commitments and convictions. True love does not seek to uphold one's own life, but seeks to understand the difference of the other person and how that difference can best be developed, or challenged. The individual is known and loved in the process. Otherwise, it is only an assembly line, where the individual is fine-tuned to mimic the "group's tune" without thought or reason. This is not leadership, but cultish behavior.
Virtues are epitomized in a human life when character has developed. Character is still based on virtues that are exemplified by the values that are most important, which may look different depending of how the value manifests itself. These values are individual specific and should not be defined by anyone else. The question for Christian faith is; is Christian faith about culture, such as dress, behavior, food, music, etc. or is Christian faith about ethics, which is about how we hold to those convictions and values before others. Obviously, those that think Christianity is mostly about cultural issues will be more apt to have difficulties understanding those who hold to a more inward understanding of God's Kingdom. Interestingly, enough, I saw two diverse kinds of believers that exemplified the Kingdom within; Bart Ehrman, an agnostic is a Biblical scholar, while Mike Huckabee is a conservative Baptist minister turned political pundit. While both have different types of jobs, lifestyles, and values, both showed a tolerance of difference and a graciousness that is hard to miss. And both of them did not, nor would not demand that their way of understanding how to live a virtuous life was a universal one!