Tolerance at Its Best

In the best Christian sense of the term, tolerance is an important aspect of grace. Tolerance provides “wobble room” for those who struggle to measure up. Tolerance allows growing room for young and restless children. It smiles at rather than frowns on the struggling new believer. Instead of rigidly pointing to the rules and rehearsing the failures of the fallen, tolerance stoops to help the fallen and reaches out to offer fresh hope and enduring acceptance. In my book The Grace Awakening, I called tolerance “the grace to let others be,” which I further explained this way:1

  1. Accepting others is basic to letting them be.
  2. Refusing to dictate to others allows the Lord freedom to direct their lives.
  3. Freeing others means we never assume a position we’re not qualified to fill.
  4. Loving others requires us to express our liberty wisely.

Intolerance is the antithesis of all that I have just described. It is an unwillingness to “overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11); it tightens the strings of guilt and verbalizes a lot of shoulds and musts. The heart of the intolerant—their heart of stone—remains unbreakable, impenetrable, judgmental, and without compassion.

This lack of tolerance is not overt, but subtle. You may detect it in a look; it is not usually spoken. To draw upon Solomon’s saying, instead of delivering those who are going under, those “staggering to slaughter,” the intolerant excuse their failure to help by saying, “We did not know this” (24:11–12). But the Lord knows better. The Lord is well aware of even the slightest spirit of partiality hidden in our hearts.

  1. Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2003), 147–155.

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


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