The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were defensive about their nation and their culture, including their very narrow view of God and religion. Up to the present century such attitudes were common in Christianity as well. Ecumenism has begun to break down the “barriers of hostility which separate us,” to borrow St. Paul’s phrase (Eph 2).
God’s view has always been very large, indeed cosmic. God has however been patient with human development, both on the historical plane and in the individual human heart. A number of ideas go together: freedom vs. a law of slavery; openness and outreaches vs. a closed-in complacency; understanding and tolerance vs. a narrow intolerance. God fosters this development through the freedom that is in Christ. The heart of Jesus is free, open and understanding. Gradually, he forms our individual hearts to become like his own. Gradually, he “civilizes” the world.
Civilize my heart, Lord. Teach me how to be civil to other people of other cultures and beliefs. Take my heart beyond civilization into the region of your love of all humankind.