Resist aggression towards those who belittle our faith, says Joel Edwards

In his 2007 Christmas message, the Rev Joel Edwards has called on Christians and non-Christians alike to be tolerant of each other.

The General Director of the Evangelical Alliance has addressed the question of how we embrace and worship Christ while living in multi-faith communities.

He said that tolerance means people who are free not to worship should avoid making life difficult for those of us who do, but 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."

Mr Edwards said that Christians seem to encounter a "Herodian attitude which takes offence at the Christmas story and demonstrates a passionate intolerance to faith" and cites examples this year such as Christina Odone not being allowed to comment on Christianity at a carol service.

However, he said Christians should take their example from Jesus: "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. 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."

Mr 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.

"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."