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Maximum tolerance towards other people and their weaknesses. Zero tolerance towards sin in my own life. This seems to be a Biblical perspective on how to live and how to view sin in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Tolerance is defined as the willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them, or as being patient, understanding and accepting of anything different. It can also mean the capacity to endure continued subjection to something negative or difficult.

The example of Jesus throughout his time on the earth, has been one of loving the sinner while rejecting the sin. He was always compassionate, reaching out to those in need, healing the sick, delivering them from demons and teaching them kingdom principles. Jesus didn’t judge first and then try to convince of sin. He loved first and that brought about repentance.

Romans 2:4 NKJV” Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

 Please read this verse with me in the Passion Translation

“Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don’t mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?”

 It is important to make the connection between God’s patience (or tolerance) and his desire for us to repent and turn from sin. Tolerance should not be a blank cheque for sin, it should simply make the space for sinners to understand God’s love and to respond to it through repentance.  At the same time the Bible is clear that Christians should not judge others.

 “Refuse to be a critic full of bias toward others, and judgment will not be passed on you. For you’ll be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. Matthew 7:1-2 (TPT)

We are each responsible for our own spiritual growth and for growing in knowledge and intimacy with the Father. Yes, others can make it easier for us to stumble but that will never justify our wrong behaviour.  I should do my utmost to live my life in such a way that I do not cause anyone else to stumble. I need to have zero tolerance to sin in my own life. Even with this attitude we might still be a stumbling block to someone else, simply because of differences in personality, expectations and experience and simply because we are all on a journey of growing in holiness and intimacy with God.

The challenge is to take responsibility for my own relationship with God. He is always loving, kind and ready to respond. Zero tolerance to sin in my own life should never be a legalistic, prideful religious act, where we pride ourselves in do’s and don’ts.  It should flow from relationship with the Father, from the freedom and authority we have in Jesus and from the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit to live in victory over sin.

It is interesting to note that the Bible passages referring to tolerance, mainly deal with tolerance towards fellow Christians who sin or fall short. Col 3:13 “Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. (TPT)

I presume that this was written because most people expect of Christians to be perfect. Once you have joined a church or a family of believers, it is common to be shocked or even devastated by the lives of other Christians. Yes, we are all striving towards excellence, yes, we are all on journey toward greater holiness and discipline in our lives. No!  We are not all perfect and my weaknesses should never become your excuse.

 What then should we do with the sinful acts of unbelievers? Should we tolerate to the point where their sin violates our freedom?  1 Cor 5:9-13 gives a clear view on the fact that we should not judge non-believers for sinning, that’s what sinners do. If we had to dissociate ourselves from sinners we would have to go out of this world. However, we should be careful not to tolerate sin within the family of believers as it will eventually destroy the whole family. There is therefore a limit to tolerance within the church. In Rev 2:20 the church of Thyatira is criticized for tolerating the false prophet Jezebel, her teaching and her immorality.

It is like a family who, within the four walls of their home, does not allow or encourage abuse of alcohol or drugs whilst fully understanding that there are people down the street who do.

The world seems to regard tolerance as one of the highest virtues in today’s society. Tolerance in itself is neither good nor bad, it has to be judged in a wider context.  Tolerance of evil could ultimately destroy you just as being intolerant of the wrong things could harm you.

God takes tolerance one step further, He is also loving, merciful and kind. He is not only patient with our weaknesses, He provided a way for us to enter back into relationship with him and to live in peace with one another. Has your view of tolerance been tainted by humanistic thought? Have you considered the wider context and ultimate outcome of that which you are tolerating?


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