We all have a thing or two we can’t tolerate. For example, I can’t stand for people to chew loudly. I tend to avoid people who get upset or emotional when somebody disagrees with their opinion. It irks me when women dress inappropriately for church. It annoys me when ministers and public speakers consistently mispronounce words or use incorrect grammar. Yes, I admit that I have a pretty extensive list. These kinds of intolerances are pretty universal and fairly harmless to others. In my case, they are actually more a reflection of my unwillingness to extend to others the grace that God extends to me. I’ve made tremendous progress but this is an area that I consistently target in prayer.
Tolerance is not about agreeing and embracing differences. It is accepting every person’s God-given right, as free moral agents, to believe as he wishes and to behave according to those beliefs so long as his actions do not infringe upon the rights of others or established laws of the land. It is the ultimate test of your emotional and spiritual maturity to love and pray for those whose beliefs and behavior you deem intolerable. When such beliefs violate biblical commands or principles, your response as a child of God should be the same as it would be if you were to see a blind man heading for a cliff. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the typical reaction is to condemn him for going in that direction rather than having compassion and showing him a safer route. Where is the compassion?
By no means should you view compassion as compromise, any more than you could ascribe such to God who loves sinners and hates sin. Why don’t we just emulate our Heavenly Father? Of course, this does not prevent us from protesting efforts to legalize beliefs and lifestyles that violate Scripture nor behavior that we know would be detrimental to society. However, we must be careful not to address these issues with an intolerant attitude–that mean-spirited, hate-filled rejection of other members of God’s creation simply because they have chosen a path that we do not endorse.
Yes, you can cooperate with your pro-choice coworkers on company projects while being adamantly opposed to abortions. You can respect that your neighbor is a Democrat without casting him aside as a “bloody liberal” because you are a conservative Republican. You can honor the emotional display during the worship services of certain charismatic churches without judging them to be without substance—merely because you prefer worship services more akin to a funeral wake.
Intolerance is not good for society as evidenced by the resulting crimes against individuals, wars, riots, and acts of terrorism. And, it’s not good for you as an individual. There is a certain level of agitation and nick-picking that accompanies an intolerant attitude. It robs you of your joy and dims your light to the world. We would all be wise to heed the words of the late Dr. Edwin Cole who said, “In matters of taste, bend with the wind. In matters of principle, be as firm as a rock.”
You can choose to address your intolerant attitude starting now. The next time you encounter one of your intolerable targets, be conscious of your negative feelings and consciously resist them. Ask God to replace them with care and concern.
Father, I repent of every type of intolerance that I have engaged. Please keep me mindful that you have given every human being the right to choose his beliefs and lifestyle. I ask for an abundance of your love and grace so that I may extend them to those who need it most. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
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