The fly in the ointment: pride vs worship

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Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” – Ecclesiastes 10:1 (KJV)

King Solomon uses a metaphor to exhort the believers. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks profusely about wisdom and begins this chapter with this same theme. In this verse, the King presents a basic principle: that foolishness creates problems for those who practice it. Solomon compares the good reputation to a good perfume. The dead fly does to the perfume what foolishness does to the reputation does to the wise people.

Wise here does not mean being wise in the human sense. It has nothing to do with intellectual knowledge or status. It has everything to do with hearing the Word of God and practicing it. Wise is he that feareth God, which obeyeth the voice of God. The Bible says that ” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10, KJV).
And many may ask: “What is the wisdom that compels us to obey God without question Him?” To those the Bible replies, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20: 7, KJV) It is foolish not to follow God, the one who gave His own Son for, as the Apostle John wrote: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36, KJV).

This explains why some are wise, and others are foolish. It all depends on the disposition of the heart. So, let me ask you: where is your heart? Where have we placed our heart? The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21, KJV) This can only means that we have our hearts in what we worship. But we will get there soon.

King Solomon uses an interesting comparison here. Tell us about a fly that falls in a perfume and spoils it. And this is similar to the mistakes we make and that call into question our name. This has legal and social implications. If we make a mistake, we will be held responsible. All our actions have consequences, whether they are good or bad.

But let’s think about this verse from the spiritual side. What principle is at the basis of this verse?

King Salomon tells about a Perfume, made with oil and aromas, and a fly that falls into it. The perfume is now ruined.

The same thing happens in our lives, is true of our lives, if we think about this oil as the anointing presence of God. Sin (the fly) ruins our relationship with God.

But let me ask you something: why did the fly fall on the perfume bottle? The answer is simple: because it was open. So it is with our lives: if we leave the lid open, Satan comes and ruins our perfume. We opened the gap, and we fell. Sin undoes many good things and it can completely destroy a lifetime.

What we receive from God, we must guard well. The presence of God must be something that we must preserve every day in our lives. We cannot open any gaps, which is getting more and more difficult these days. The temptation is everywhere, and has many names: addictions, excessive use of television or internet, pornography, lust, money, power, … (you can continue the list with other sins).

 

WORSHIP:

How can we preserve this presence of God? Living a life of worshiping Him. The Bible says in John 4:23, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, – for the Father seeks such love it. ”

So, what is worship? It is the ultimate expression of love. You know, God does not seek worship. He seeks worshipers. He does not care so much about what you

do, He cares about what you are and how you worship Him. If you are a good worshiper, your worship will be received by God. If you truly love Him above all things, He will receive your worship. And it does not matter if you cannot sing, play an inpexels-photo-952437strument, or preach. Use only the gifts that God gave you! We all get a gift, at least. Use it! But use it for the glory of God as a way of expressing your love for Him. May everything you do be done for the glory of God.
We are Christians and Christians are radical. Christians are seriously radical. We have to be 100% committed to God – He won’t accept less than that.

Worship is a way of life. It is not about singing some songs on the Sunday service, pray every now and then, raise your arms, cry a little bit or feeling a shiver on the spine. It’s more than that: it’s a lifestyle. If we love something (or someone), our whole life revolves around it. If love money, your whole life will be made around working hard to make money, or managing schemes to make money; If you truly love your wife or husband, you can’t even imagine of betraying him/her: he/she is the only one in the world.

With God it is the same thing: we become what we worship. When we worship God, we taste a little of what He is, and that will change our life forever. From the moment you know Him, in which you worship Him (in spirit and in truth), and you do it continually, your life will change. So yes, worship is a way of life. And keep in mind: whatever you do will be to the glory of God: “Therefore whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV).

A worship lifestyle is the best lifestyle we can adopt: a life where we always seek the presence of God, where we seek the Holy Spirit, to guide us every day. Worship is something that brings us closer to God. It is exalting, glorifying God without thinking of us. There’s no “me” or “my problems, my needs” at that time. At that moment there is only God, nothing more. The presence of God is the best this world can give us. Funny how the best thing in the world it’s not of this world, huh?

 

PRIDE:

The most opposed state to worship is the pride. Our ego collides with the Holy presence of God.

The greatest example that the Bible gives us about pride is that of Satan. It’s impossible to think about pride without thinking about Satan. Let’s see what the Bible says about him:

 “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weakens the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne  above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the   congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of  the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly  look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the   earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms.” (Isaiah 14:11- 16, KJV)

In these lines we can see the five wishes of Satan, or the five “I will” that he claims:

  1. I will ascend into heaven
  2. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God
  3. I will sit upon the mount of the congregation
  4. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
  5. I will be like the most High.
    You see, this is all about height. Satan wanted to be great, wanted to be exalted. What about us? Well… We want and seek attention from others, we want to see, we want to be seen when we do something good.

We should be like Jesus Christ: humble in heart. Jesus was God and He never had a single arrogant, superb word. He never judged himself above others; on the contrary, He always pointed to God: “For my Father is greater than I” (John 14:28, KJV); ” But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do”(John 14:31, KJV).

The curious thing about Satan is that he gives us two great hints of worship:

1) – Through the gifts he has given us.

Notice that the Book of Isaiah, in the chapter 14:11, states that he had viols (stringed instruments) within him. More, in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 28:11-19, we learn that he also had drums and percussion instruments inside:

“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone  was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the  carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy  pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
By the multitude of thy merchandise, they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou  be any more.”
(Ezekiel 28:11-19, KJV)

All the instruments that exist in the world, Lucifer played all the instruments in the world. He was responsible for praise, for the worship of God. No worship led to God without going through Satan first, and this was a problem to Satan. In Ezekiel 28:16, God tells us about a trade crime, committed by Satan, the pride crime that began his rebellion. Satan took the worship to God, in his own hands and we couldn’t resist of taking some for him. He thought he proudly deserved some for him. PRIDE: the sin that took Lucifer out of Paradise, the lust of wanting something that was not his, the attempt to resemble God. It all began when Lucifer said, “I want.”

Who are we to say to God “I want ?!

2) How to worship God?

Satan also shows us how to do it, in Matthew 4:8-9: Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain. (he sure loves to feel high, right?) and starts to tempt our Lord: ” Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt falls down and worship me.
And that’s how we worship God: falling down on our knees, in our ego (meaning, with a sincere heart, fulfilled with gratitude) and giving all the glory to Him. Satan knew this was the right way to do it because, at some point in his existence, he did it. He kneeled before God and praised Him.

Satan has made many prostrate before him, for material causes, for moments of enjoyment, in exchange for things that are not worthwhile. But there is only one worthy of worship: God. Only before God, we should bow down. Only His glory will make us fall at His feet. When we prostrate before God (physically or not) we declare that we are sinners, that we need Him, that we have nothing good to give Him to pay for what He has done for us, but that we acknowledge His greatness and glory.

Worship in spirit and in true involves a manifestation of love. It involves a physical expression of love. How can we worship in silence? It is impossible to stand in the presence of God and not manifest our worship. Even Satan knew this! He did not want Jesus to just say, “Yes, I adore you.” He wanted Jesus to express his adoration to him if he prostrated himself before him. And why did Satan want this? Because that’s how you worship in Heaven. This is what he saw the angels do in the presence of God.

As we worship God, as we contemplate His glory, we will be changed. Like Moses when he came down from the mountain, our face will shine, not because we are good and spiritual, but because the glory of God shines in us. And this is exactly what Satan does not want: you and me standing in the presence of God. He wants to divert our focus, and he will do anything to remove us from the presence of God.

He will do everything for the fly to fall into the bottle of perfume. It is up to you to store the bottle, to keep it tightly closed. Enough of living with the bottle uncovered, in the expectation that the fly will not fall; that we can live with our sins without God caring about it. Enough of living a life without sanctification, where we can have a little bit of everything: a little of us, letting a tiny place of our heart to God to fill. Enough of living in our pride in which we manage our lives and do not submit to the will of God.

The Bible is very clear about this: “So, because you are lukewarm, and not cold or hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16, KJV). Either you are cold, or you are hot, but you cannot be warm. The problem of being lukewarm is that we say one thing and do another: we give bad testimony and disgrace the name of God.

Come to live a life of worship. May everything you do be to the glory of God.

 

 

The Law of Love – An Essay on the Principle of Tolerance

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Photo credit: Lisa Zins on Visual hunt / CC BY

What I think of tolerance among different Christian denominations, I must tell you in all sincerity that I regard tolerance as the main characteristic of the true Church.[1] This is how John Locke, the father of liberalism and the primary defender of religious freedom, begins his Letter on Tolerance. Although such a phrase was written in the seventeenth century, it remains as current today as on the day it came out of the mind of this philosopher for the role. There is, in fact, nothing more important in a Democratic State such as tolerance and, it should be noted, when we speak of tolerance, we do not refer to the typical shrug of the shoulders in the face of dissimilarity, or to ignore the existence of those who think differently. No. It has to do with the acceptance and respect that deserves who thinks and acts in a different way from what we take for normal.

If the principle of tolerance is an essential criterion for the peaceful coexistence, in the same legal order, of individuals who think unequally about the political color, the football club, the music, the city and the countryside, the more essential it will be the religion. Accept it or not, understand it or not, religion is something that moves the world. Man, as the fruit of creation, from the beginning of times, has always manifested great interest in the invisible. And another thing would not be expected since he early realized that there is a whole world around him that goes beyond the limit of his knowledge.[2]

All that we see and do not see as human beings is the work of an invisible hand that seems to dwell among us, who perseveres in relating to us. It is undeniable that there is a Good Being (Summum Bonum) who, according to the Judeo-Christian understanding, created the world, endowed it with resources that allowed its self-sufficiency and placed man there to inhabit and keep it, together with the family that God gave him, as we observe in the Holy Scriptures (Genesis 1: 1 to 2:24). This was the main task of man: to administer the earth, to take care of his family and to relate to God, his creator.[3]

Thousands of years have passed since Genesis, and the conjuncture [almost] has not changed: man continues to work, so that he can support himself (and family, if necessary) and relate to the Divine. At this point, however, the situation has undergone some changes. Let us see:

They reveal the Bible and other documents of proven historical value that man has never failed to relate to God, or at least to question about Him. Observing the history of Israel, from Egypt to the birth of Jesus Christ, we can affirm with all the property that the people always sought for their God. Although there were times when he went away from God, through sin and lack of faith, he never completely departed, there is always a faithful remnant who continued to worship God. With the birth of Jesus Christ, the setting changed: while one party accepted Him as the Messiah of the Old Testament prophecies, others refused to acknowledge Him as such. But once again we conclude that the people did not turn away from God. Although they followed parallel paths in the worship of God, as the History of the Church and Christianity reveal to us, they continued to serve the Creator.

Centuries have passed over this scenario but have not been strong enough to change it. Let us look, for example, at Portugal, a country that is mostly Christian, with deep roots in Roman Catholicism. If, on the one hand, the Census proves that the representation of Catholics in Portugal has fluctuated in the last decades, proving, according to the data of 2011, that the number has fallen, compared to the data of 2001, on the other hand, the minorities (Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others) have presented significantly higher numbers for each demographic census.[4] Such values lead us to a conclusion: people did not abandon religion, the search for the Divine; only moved among the various denominations in our order.

And the atheists, where will we fit this group in this context? Well, it is true that in recent decades we have witnessed an equally considerable increase in agnostic and atheistic theories throughout the world, and Portugal is not an exception. However, the assertion of theories challenging a creator God, from His existence to His way of relating to man, is not a new reality. On the contrary, the Bible also mentions them in several moments, through several Epistles of the Apostles.[5]

To close this question, it seems certain to assert that in one way or another, at a certain point in time, every man is confronted with the idea and reality of God. There seems to be, in mankind, an innate knowledge about God, a supernatural idea that is explained by the fact that it was created in His image and likeness.[6]

However, how you will react to this encounter is not analogous to all men. There are some who recognize Him and put their faith in Him through a series of practices that unite man to God in an attitude of reverence; there are others who do not recognize His existence, living, on the one hand, outside the domain of God, but, on the other hand, dedicating much of their lives to the proof that this Absolute Being is imaginary or devoid of any power.[7] Others still know God in a traditional way (merely ritual, it may be added), and at a certain moment they discover the supernatural, the true essence of the God whom they thought they knew, just as happened to Job, the Patriarch.[8]

In one way or another, it is clear that the idea of God (or as many insist on affirming, religion), its existence or illusion, does not remain in the shadow throughout life, so we understand that the right to freedom of conscience, religion and worship is a common right of all Portuguese, whether believers or atheists. Socrates presents us with a classic question – in the discussion that opposes the right to morality – because it is something that already enters the field of moral philosophy, which escapes our objective with this work, it is important to leave a brief explanation using a Socratic thought: “Is a behaviour correct because the gods order it or the gods order it because it is correct?” Undoubtedly this question of the book Euthyphro raises the question of whether morality can actually exist without relying on religion. Socrates understands that ethical principles are correct in themselves, not depending on the existence of a God/gods, since there are certain moral rules common to various religions (namely, you will not kill, you will not lie, you will fulfil your word, others), which are typified in the law not because they come from a divine entity, but because they are good rules of social coexistence. This is so true that it proves that atheists and agnostics are not immoral because they do not recognize the existence of God. However, although God did not exist, an appreciation among the citizens must subsist, since everything is not allowed. Even if God did not exist, this would not justify a violation of religious freedom from the list of fundamental rights in our Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. Even if God did not exist, this did not serve as a basis for oppressing those who believe in His existence.

From the above, it is imperative to devote some time to the study of religious freedom and tolerance in Portugal, and it is our scope to do so in the light of biblical principles. It is our aim to provide a final conclusion: the influence of the moral of God, the love of God in the resolution of religious conflicts.

 

THE LOVE IN THE BIBLE

The word “love” derives from the Hebrew ahead, a word of broad connotation. In the Old Testament were used other words, with different senses, associated with love, with the idea of desire, something that referred to two people who loved each other (lovers). Already in the New Testament, two new words appear agape (agapao), very usual in the Septuagint (Hebrew Bible translated in Greek koine), and phileo, also this synonymous of agape. There is yet another word, without biblical support, that determines another kind of love: eros. It is often used to indicate a passionate love, always with sexual connotations.

Counting, love agape appears in the Bible 142 times in its verbal form and 116 times in its subjective composition, while phileo love only appears 25 times.  Agape is, therefore, a love with a far greater reach than our love word – in Portuguese – can express: it is the love of God, a deep love. It is a higher and more divine love as if it were meant to reveal, through a single word, the greatness and suis generis form of God’s love for man. It is often used to express a “feast of love” as a meal in communion/brotherhood among people united by friendship. It is associated with the traditional religious practices of the Catholic Church, at the time of the Last Supper in the Eucharist (sharing of bread and wine between Jesus Christ and the disciples, supper that precedes betrayal), and Protestant churches, which also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, a symbolic act representing the sacrifice of love performed on the cross for the atonement of man’s sins.

            Phileo love, however, is a love of personal affection, a declaration of respect and friendship for others, not being, in our view, a love of inferior quality in relation to agape. On the contrary, it is the ultimate expression of love among men, only surpassed by the agape love that God feels for man, made in his image and likeness.

Realizing the idea of love that the Holy Scriptures refer to, it is important to realize how it should be applied in daily life since it is of no importance to man being invited to act in harmony with the Word of God without actually acting. Love is not, then, a mere sentiment; it is a decision.

Let us look with zeal at the words of the Apostle Paul in the first Epistle to the Corinthians:

Though I speak tongues, those of men and of angels, if I had not charity, it would be as a brass that sounds, or as a tinkling cymbal. Even if he had the gift of prophecy, the knowledge of all mysteries and of all science, even if he had all faith, to the point of transporting mountains, if he did not have charity, would be nothing. Even if I distributed all my possessions to the hungry, even if I gave my body to the flames, if I did not have the charity, that would do me no good. Charity is patient, charity is helpful, it is not envious, it does not boast, it does not swell with pride. Nothing is inconvenient, it does not seek its own interest, it does not hold a grudge. He does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. Everything excuses, believes all, hopes all, supports all. Charity will never pass. (…) Now there remain faith, hope, charity, these three things. The greatest of these, however, is charity.[9]

Interpreting the words of the Apostle, more relevant than having knowledge of God, of His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, is more important than the certainty that all that exists, which we know and yet do not know, is God’s creation, more important than that good social works, is love. We can practice good works, help in the distribution of food and clothing to the needy, we can have faith and attend the Church daily: if we do not do it with love, it will do no good.

Paul thus demonstrates that everything that man does in his daily life, in the context of work, of affective relations, of social work, of the Church, must do with love. How? Putting yourself in the background. From the moment that man ceases to be the center of his world, denying his most selfish feelings, he realizes that he lives in society and that he has to know how to manage his experience in the social context in which he is inserted. To act with love is to put into practice the principle of tolerance: loving another human being, realizing his needs, taking care of him and working so that he can also reach his well-being.  To act in tolerance is to identify that the other is different from me, for his or her life history, ethical or religious conviction, political or moral, and allow him, like me, to live what he believes without being penalized.

Also, John, the Apostle of Love, as it became known, provides us with sacred writings on this subject: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love cometh from God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He who does not love has not known God, because God is love. In this, God’s love for us was manifested: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live for him. In this is love: it was not we who loved God but he who loved us and sent us His Son as the victim of atonement for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (…) God is love: he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him. Herein lies the perfection of love in us: that we may have full confidence in the day of judgment, for as he also is in this world. There is no fear in love; on the contrary, perfect love casts out fear, because fear implies punishment, and the one who fears has not reached the perfection of love. As for us, let us, love, because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but he hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love his brother, whom he sees, whom he does not see, he cannot love. And this is the commandment which we have received from him: he that loveth God, let him love his brother also.[10]

The words of the Apostle John speak for themselves, not without great explanation. It is clear, in the light of this passage, the importance of love for good coexistence among human beings. And if, in the first century, when John wrote this Letter, it was extremely important for men to accept, in love, the differences they had among each other. It is even more important today because we live in multicultural societies, open to new knowledge, ideologies and lifestyles. If we do not act in tolerance between us, we will not make the society where we enter a better place. Note that the love that John tells us is not a servile love, a love that is guided by fear or fear. It is not a love that leads us to do good because we fear that evil will affect us. No, it is a love that leads to action based on the love we receive (first, in the love we receive from God). If we do not give, we will not receive. It is a simple logic that works because we are outside the legal field. There is no law, made by human hands, that compels us to act in love or to do good. To do or not to do depends on something that is beyond the law, and the principle of tolerance proves this: it invites a man to act in love, a place that a human law cannot reach.

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BIBLE

 

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Photo on Visual hunt

 

It seems paradoxical that a sacred book, the basis of faith of millions of Christians, should promote the idea of religious freedom, but as we shall see, there is no paradox here.

We start from the idea that the concept of religious freedom broadly promotes an idea of equality before the various churches and religious communities existing in the same physical space. This is the initial premise of the idea of religious freedom that we have in our legal system today as a fundamental right – to put all religions in equality before the law. Notwithstanding the fact that the lawmakers speak in great detail on the subject, as we intend to explain in the second part of this short essay, Jesus, too, throughout his short ministry has been leaning on it. Jesus, in unity with God the Father, knew better than the man himself how important it was to be free to profess his faith without suffering any harm, without anyone questioning the truth of that conviction.

500 years after the Protestant Reformation, it is important to remember how important this event was in the establishment of religious freedom (apart from the replacement of Christian values with that originally designated by God). In this period, many were the Protestant leaders who complained against intolerance and especially oppression by the Catholic Church, which did not welcome the idea of a doctrine other than its own. Recalling John Locke’s words, religious intolerance cannot be the way to go, for “to believe what the Gospel and the Apostles says, no man can be a Christian if he lacks charity and that faith which works not by force iron and fire), but by love. Well, I appeal to the conscience of those who, under cover of religion, persecute, torture, destroy and kill other men, and ask if they do so out of friendship with them and Christian love. [11]

The Catholic Church would certainly be in a bad place if the story were to end here. An example of this, History tells us, is John Calvin, one of the great names of the post-Reformation period. The episode dates back to 1553, when he met Miguel Servetus, an Aragonese scientist, and reformer, who died at the will of John Calvin in the same year. The problem arises when Servetus wrote a critical work of the Institutes of John Calvin, refuting the idea of the theory of election and the idea of Trinity, which he considered heretical. John Calvin did not like being refuted and vowed to kill him if Servetus returned to Geneva, a threat that was met by death at the stake.

This small example, one of several committed by John Calvin, shows that the religious freedom so sought after during the Reformation did not put an end to sad episodes of religious intolerance and oppression.[12]Conflicts over theological misunderstandings were announced by Jesus Christ, which centuries earlier were presented during the Prophetic Sermon, in which he stated that the times would come when men, claiming to be truth-keepers, raising the banner of theology, would commit treason and seek enmities for lack of understanding of what they claimed to be the truth.[13] This is the scenario we see today: churches and religious communities with their backs turned by not being able to live through their differences. This is, in our view, the point where religious freedom fails, that is, in the lack of tolerance and love among the various denominations. In John Locke’s words, “tolerance of those who differ from others in matters of religious opinion fits both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the genuine human reason that it seems monstrous that there are men so blind that they do not clearly perceive their need and advantages. (…) It is man’s own sin and he is seldom free from such defects. … But let it not be that some disguise their spirit of unchristian persecution and cruelty in the colors of false concern for state interests or breach of the law.”[14]

We understand that a good example of a liberal and tolerant person is that of Jesus Christ who, on his journey through this world, never presented an unworthy conduct to those who refuted his ideas. In his words, we see humility, tolerance, and love for others. There are several times when we observe Jesus mingled with the sinners and the poor, thus contradicting the typical attitudes of the Pharisees, or calling to Him who desired to hear what He had to expose, not only by His attitude (which did not coax or oppress) but especially by the truth of His words. At no point in the Bible do we see Jesus demanding to be heard or taken into account. He himself criticized his apostles when they displayed biased attitudes, as we can see in Mark 9: 38-40 and Luke 9: 51-56.

The key point of Jesus ‘discourse on love appears in the book of John, where Jesus left a simple commandment: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”[15] What was Jesus’ intention in uttering these words? Looking at the context in which Jesus was revealed, in which Jesus reveals his love for his hearers, shortly before he was killed on the cross, Jesus intended to revive in their minds to give their lives for others, not in a literal sense, in a death of cross, but in the sense of living their life thinking about the well-being of the neighbour. Accepting the next, even if different. Even if the other does not accept our way of living, of being in life; our religious, political or other beliefs.

It is before the difference that we are faced with the idea of tolerating. Of loving, according to the Scriptures.

  1. THE STATE AND THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

In this second phase it is important to observe how the Portuguese State embraces religious pluralism in its bosom, looking with special attention to the principle of tolerance expressed in article 7 of the Law of Religious Freedom (LLR). This article refers that “conflicts between the freedom of conscience, religion and worship of one person and that of another shall be resolved with tolerance, so as to respect as much as possible the freedom of each person.

            In the first place, it is important to understand what is going on in the mind of the legislator when it states the freedom of conscience, religion and worship, concepts that we will now explain.

The right to religious freedom is enshrined in Article 41 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, entitled “Freedom of conscience, religion and worship“. No. 1 of this constitutional norm contains three disparate but complementary rights, since the second is closely related to the first, while the third has its origin in the second. This precept thus regulates the right to freedom of conscience, which is evidenced by the freedom to choose ethical convictions and standards, the right to freedom of religion, which includes the right to choose whether or not to embrace a religion, to actively defend a certain cause for or against the religious phenomenon, not to be prejudiced by their beliefs, and, finally, freedom of worship, which allows the individual and religious communities to perform public acts of faith according to the religion that they confess.

The Article 41 is divided into two distinct parts: an individual part, which absorbs the sphere of personal rights, and an institutional part, which integrates the sphere of churches and religious communities. With respect to the individual part, this guarantees a broad religious freedom for the citizen, who can always proceed according to his ethical or moral ideologies, without thereby suffering embarrassment. These freedoms have clear reflections in the daily life of man, allowing him to express his faith in public or in private, in groups or individually, “by teaching, by practice, by worship and by rites,” without being “persecuted, deprived of rights or freedom from civic duties or obligations”, which ensures a wider and more accessible religious pluralism, atheistic or proselyte manifestations, daily actions in accordance with the professed religion and public demonstrations of religious practices. It is, of course, an application of Article 13, no. 2 of the Constitution, which establishes the principle of equality and, consequently, the prohibition of discriminating or privileging citizens for religious reasons.

The Constitution goes even further in consecrating religious freedom in paragraphs 3 and 6. In the first, it enshrines a right to the personal reserve of religious convictions, which translates into the prohibition of any authority to question citizens about the religion professed and/or convictions. Religious convictions are therefore part of the inner circle of the citizens and cannot be questioned. In the last, it establishes the right to conscientious objection as a way of not practicing certain acts that conflict with human conscience for religious reasons. It is relevant to mention that it is a right under the law, which is responsible for delimiting its contours and forms of exercise. Regarding the individual part, we would like to draw attention to the provisions of article 19, paragraph 6 of the Constitution, which prohibits the suspension of the rights of freedom of conscience and religion in the event of a declaration of a state of siege or emergency.

Regarding the institutional part, it is now important to analyse the rights conferred in paragraphs 4 and 5. We know that the principle of separation between the State and the churches is an apanage of the Portuguese State and the Constitution proclaims it in paragraph 4, where we can conclude that this principle entails two important corollaries:

– the first is manifested in the principle of non-confessionalism of the State, which challenges a sense of neutrality on the part of the State in relation to the religious phenomenon, visible in the prohibition of State interference in purely religious matters and in the guarantee of a public education non-confessional;

– the second is in the free disposal of churches and religious communities as to their organization and function. The State is not allowed to interfere in these areas, except for the regulation of freedom of worship and demonstration, as is the case of religious assistance in the Armed Forces, Prison Establishments and units.

With regard to no. 5, it equally guarantees two important rights to churches and religious communities as regards freedom of education, expression and the press, arising from freedom of religion and the separation and independence of churches and religious communities. Facing the reality of the catholic and evangelical religions, we observe that the first right has to do with the freedom to teach the confessed religion inside and outside the temples.

The second right includes freedom of expression and of the press of churches and religious communities, through the written press, radio and television.


THE PRINCIPLE OF TOLERANCE

 

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BY VIKTOR HANACEK

 

Defined, in the light of the Constitution, the concept of freedom of conscience, religion and worship, which the ordinary legislator reinforced in the LLR, in articles 8 et seq., we now look at the principle of tolerance, that which is, in our view, the most innovative in the range of principles presented in the LLR, our focus throughout this essay.

It is a principle that deals with an appeal to the resolution of religious conflicts. We say appeal because throughout the LLR we find in no article a practical consecration of this principle, a model of resolution of religious conflicts. It seems that the only concern of the legislator, in adding this principle to the rest, is, in fact, to appeal to the dialogue between the opposing people or churches or communities. It is a principle that deals with an appeal to the resolution of religious conflicts. We say appeal because throughout the LLR we don’t find in any article a practical consecration of this principle, a model of resolution of religious conflicts.

The Portuguese State, as a democratic State of Law, therefore opts for a perfectly correct solution: it accepts and accepts the political relevance that religion has without, however, meddling in matters that concern particular religious (collective) institutions and believers in particular. In our view, the principle of tolerance applies both to the legal sphere of churches and religious communities and to the legal sphere of individuals.

In the first place, it is important that in case of conflict between churches or communities, by opposing rights, they be resolved in a tolerant way, using peaceful dialogue. Regardless of the religions involved in a conflict, we know that it is characteristic of religions to promote the well-being of those who confess it. No religious community has the ability to inflict some kind of suffering, physical or psychological, on its members, or to present them with a Truth that they have as a lie. It is true that sometimes one or another news of a certain community that sells the faith to its faithful comes to our attention, that it seeks the profit of the one who directs it instead of seeking to help the other in its walk. It is, for example, the typical a community that sells the faith to its faithful, who seeks the profit of the one who directs it instead of seeking to help the other in his walk. It is, for example, the typical case where the new member of the community is led to buy a special place in heaven, ignoring the hoax behind the whole scheme of illegally raising money. Fortunately, this is not the general rule; are small but clear cases of fraud and illicit exploitation which must be reported to the competent authorities following a normal judicial procedure. Or, in another example, when there is a practice of other criminal acts by religious leaders (defamation, discrimination, corruption, among others). When there is, in fact, a right of a community that is violated by another, and if such violation is committed in the practice of a crime, it must be denounced. In this case, the State cannot resign from administering justice, under penalty of discrediting our entire Justice, increasing the distrust of citizens in the Courts competent for this purpose. Starting from the idea that all communities seek, through the truth they proclaim, to help their members during their earthly lives, guiding them through healthy, tolerant leadership in case of conflict with another community, it must be the same love that must guide the whole process of resolution, applying the principle of tolerance. As we have already mentioned, tolerance means that each one places the other in front of himself, which in these cases will be the key to solving the problem effectively and peacefully.

Among individuals the situation is similar. Unless it is a clear violation of a right (namely, discrimination on religious grounds in the context of work or school, the inability to profess faith in public, in association or alone) which, as we have already seen, must be denounced, everything can be solved peacefully. We speak, then, of the classic case in which a lady insists on inviting her friend daily to go with her to the church, offering her magazines and other material to spread her faith. The right to practice acts proper to their community (proselytizing activities) thus collides with the right to choose not to have a religion, or because they do not want to have to do with that particular religion. It is a typical case that opposes private individuals, which creates estrangement between believers and non-believers, which causes embarrassment towards religion; however, it is a case where clearly the principle of tolerance is called upon to intervene, otherwise, it will be complex to guide the parties to the best solution of the problem.

The issue is complicated when conflict divides the state and communities, and this is the most common situation. We are talking, then, of the case in which a certain community intends to carry out a worship in the garden of the city and intends to obtain a license by the Autarchy to be able to use the space and this one rejects the request, without explanation or alternative supply. We are talking, then, of the case where a chaplain is prevented from providing assistance in a hospital or prison on the grounds that it is impossible to provide assistance at that time because it is not visiting time. There are many cases in which there is a total lack of awareness of the LLR by the municipalities and other public entities, which increases the number of complaints to the competent regulatory body. Examples of common cases are the weak knowledge of a law that has been in place since 2001.

In these cases, we understand that the principle of tolerance has no direct application, since it is a conflict between a church or religious community and the state, not between communities and / or individuals. In situations of this nature, it is necessary to follow the legal procedures and denounce so that such situations, prohibited by the Constitution and the LLR, will not be repeated in the future. There is, in fact, a mysticism about the issue of religious freedom that continues to hang over Portugal and that it is urgent to clarify, otherwise we will see, in the not too distant future, freedom of religion to lose ground in a road that has been difficult to go.

The article 7, an article, without a doubt, innovative, which asserts the excellence character of our LLR. It is, without doubt, a victory for the Portuguese, believers or non-believers. A victory for religious communities that see their equality attested to other churches and religious communities. A challenge for religious communities to put into practice the commandment of Jesus Christ: to love the other (like ourselves).

It’s difficult. It is. But at the same time, it is interesting for the State, in the person of the ordinary legislator, to entrust the religious communities themselves to work out their differences through respect, acceptance, tolerance. In short, of love. A State that does not interfere with the most intimate decision of its citizens, who accepts, without questioning, their convictions and allows them to resolve the conflict, within the limits we have observed, in their own way: through the teaching that you hear week after week, in the meetings of a religious nature. Through love. We see, therefore, that it gives freedom to religious confessions to publicly show the faith they live: through tolerance.

To conclude, the question remains: Where Jesus passed, he left his peace, to whom he welcomed him, to whom he mistreated him.[16] What about us? What brand are we leaving? Are we leaving the peace?

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

Bíblia de Jerusalém. Trad. de Euclides Martins Balancin [et al.]. 1.ª ed. São Paulo: Paulus, 2002.

– Lindberg, Carter, História do Cristianismo. Trad. de Paula Reis, Lisboa: Editorial Teorema, 2006.

– Locke, John, Carta Sobre a Tolerância. Lisboa: Padrões Culturais Editora, 2014.

– Pratas, Cláudia Alves, O Direito da Religião – A Proteção das Minorias Protestantes. Lisboa: Chiado Editora, 2014.

– ________________, As Testemunhas de Jeová e a Discriminação no Acesso a Tratamentos Isentos de Sangue. e-Pública, III, n.º 2, (2016) 160-193.

 

[1] John Locke, Carta Sobre a Tolerância. Lisboa, 2014, p. 7.

[2] Cláudia Alves Pratas, O Direito da Religião – A Proteção das Minorias Protestantes. Lisboa, 2014, p.13.

[3] Cláudia Alves Pratas, As Testemunhas de Jeová e a Discriminação no Acesso a Tratamentos Isentos de Sangue. e-Pública, III, n.º 2, 2016, pp. 166 e ss.

[4] According to data presented by the 2011 Census, 7,281,887 Portuguese are assumed to be Catholics, a number that decreased compared to the result of 2001 (7,353,548).

[5] For example, Acts of the Apostles 17: 22-23.

[6] Genesis 1:26-31, 2: 7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

[7] Cláudia Alves Pratas, O Direito da Religião…, 2014, pp. 17 a 21.

[8] Job 42:2-6.

[9] I Corinthians 13 (Jerusalem Bible).

[10] I John 4:1-21 (Jerusalem Bible).

[11] John Locke, Carta sobre… Lisboa, 2014, p. 9.

[12] Carter Lindberg, História do Cristianismo. Lisboa, 2006, pp. 152-155.

[13] Matthew 24.

[14] John Locke, Carta sobre… Lisboa, 2014, pp. 13-14.

[15] John15:12

[16] John 14:27, 20:19; Thessalonians 3:16.

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