The leader of one of the largest evangelical Christian bodies in the UK has called on Christians and non-Christians to be tolerant of each other this Christmas season.
In his 2007 Christmas message, the Rev. Joel Edwards – general director of the Evangelical Alliance – addressed the question of how believers embrace and worship Christ while living in multi-faith communities.
Tolerance means people who are free not to worship should avoid making life difficult for those who do, he said. At the same time, he also called on Christians not to respond aggressively.
"We must resist the urge to react to any belittling of our belief or our intellect with aggression," he said.
This year's holiday season has again drawn out anti-Christian sentiment as believers feel an increasing aggression toward the celebration of Christmas.
Conservative MP Mark Pritchard held a debate earlier this month addressing the assault on Britain's Christian heritage and traditions, including Christmas. He attributed the marginalization of Christian traditions to the "politically-correct brigade, fundamentalists, atheists, and militant secularists."
Christians seem to encounter a "Herodian attitude which takes offense at the Christmas story and demonstrates a passionate intolerance to faith," Edwards said.
But calling Christians to follow the way of Jesus, Edwards said, "In his birth, which drew the poor and the rich, the frail and the strong, the Jew and the Gentile, we see the pattern for the rest of Jesus' life, typified by a gracious and welcoming tolerance of diversity, but with a forthright and outspoken intolerance of narrow mindedness. He would walk with sinners, touch lepers and mingle with the poor."
"Our acceptance and welcome of those who do not think or look like us is surely to our credit," he added. "Even if we disagree with secular humanists we can at least acknowledge their starting point: a genuine passion of including those on the margins of power and influence."
Edwards also praised the tolerance evident in people of other faiths.
"Although people of other faiths may not bow down and worship Jesus, in the UK they have never attempted to prevent Christians from doing so," he said.
"In a tolerant Britain which truly embraces diversity, freedom means the liberty to worship Christ the King. Christmas was never meant to be an imposition: it is an invitation to worship."