Tolerance versus Grace

I’ve found myself a part of a situation that will have to remain rather vague in order not to dishonor anyone involved, but I think I can cover the thing by saying simply that,

people don’t like change.

And I am finding myself getting frustrated.  And me being the big-mouth that I am have expressed some of that frustration.  And the responses that I have gotten from the few folks I have blessed with my opinion (ha!) is that we have to be filled with grace when it comes to tearing down “traditions” to make room for “freedom” and that I must have patience during the process.  And that to me is exasperating because I’m trying very hard to be full of grace but I am sooooo ready to see some changes in this area.

And so this “situation” has brought to mind a question.  Not necessarily about this situation but just a question in general…

Is there a difference between grace and tolerance?

Because I think there is.

tolerance – (noun) a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own

grace – (noun) the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God

So then, tolerance means that although I don’t see things the way you do, I still allow you to continue on doing what you are doing without objecting to it in order to be fair.  And grace is showing love, mercy, kindness, etc. to others regardless of their circumstances as a reflection of what God does for us.

And this brings to mind another question…

Can you be tolerant of someone’s behavior even though it contradicts what you know to be Truth and still be full of grace toward them?

And the answer to that one in my heart is a resounding


 The very definition of tolerance implies that permission has been given to do a certain thing or think a certain way…in essence, I am giving my okay for something that I know is completely wrong, or something that has someone in bondage, or something that goes against what I know is God’s truth and to me that  is the opposite of grace. 

We can give grace.  We can love in the midst of all kinds of mistakes.  We can give second and third and fourth chances.  But if we are also giving permission to allow a willful separation from the fullness of who we are created by God to be, then in reality all we are giving is a lie.

See here’s the basis for my thought process in all this…God’s grace for me is unending.  His love for me is deeper and wider and longer and farther than I can ever grasp or imagine.  There is no blessing that He doesn’t desire to give me.  There is no end to His loving kindness towards me.  HOWEVER, His tolerance for sin is zero.  And the last thing He wants to do is to allow me to continue to behave or think in a way that will cause a separation between He and I.  And the Holy Spirit will continue to move and shake me until I remove myself from that behavior or way of thinking because (and I know this is all Christian-y cliché) God loves me way to much to leave me the way He found me.  He’s making me like Christ…or He’s trying to anyway if I’ll get off my stubborn high horse and let Him.

The world has lied to us.  The world has told us that in order for us to love like Jesus loved, we have to be tolerant of people’s stuff.  No sir we don’t.  We can’t be.  The Church must operate in love, but it cannot continue to give people permission to act however they want.

But you are a chosen people,

a royal priesthood,

a holy nation,

a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praises of Him

who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

2 Peter 2:9

The Body of Christ has been called to be holy…to be set apart.  We gotta act like it.

And we’ve got to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light.

Stir us up, Lord.  Don’t let us stay the same.  Change us from the inside out.

 Make us more like Jesus.

4 thoughts on “Tolerance versus Grace

  1. hey precious friend,

    i have no idea what you’re talking about, so i’m not trying to pick apart what you may or may not be talking about. but, as much as i am able to relate to the topic, i think…i can make myself crazy when i wish for other people to change and they just don’t. the thing is, it’s not up to me to change them. it’s just not. that’s between them and jesus and it’s their own journey. i can’t take for granted my own stubborness when god in his sovereign mercy allowed me to go through whatever i had to go through in order to get to him in the end (because i always get there if not immediately then eventually).

    if i absolutely can. not. tolerate. something…well, perhaps it’s too much therapy…but i have to ask myself why, oh dear god, WHY is it bothering me THIS much?

    if it’s something that fundamentally and morally and spiritually is wrong for me -even if it’s what someone else is doing- and to be around it affects me negatively, then i have to take my own power back and seek god about what *i* need to do in order to affect change. i can’t wish for change in other people. but it may mean i have to change something in me -physically, relationally, or spiritually- in order to freely give (and freely receive) sufficient grace for which there are no bounds.

    love you.


    • Yes yes and yes to everything you said…and honestly I may not have been as clear as I would like to be.

      I guess my bottom line point is this – to not acknowledge the sin of a friend is the same as saying it’s okay. Now I realize that we must get the plank out of our own eye before we can deal with the splinter in someone else’s, but we have to have some kind of accountability within the Body of Christ and within our circle of friends.

      We must call out greatness in each other, but sometimes that means speaking to something that is hindering us in our calling. We can show grace (love and kindness, forgiveness, etc.) to someone without giving them permission to behave badly. I’m thinking in terms of David and Nathan…David was in the middle of a mess of trouble, he was veering off track in all kinds of ways and for Nathan to have stood there and not said anything about it would have been the same as him having implied that he was okay with David’s behavior and the separation it was causing between David and God’s desires for David’s life. Nathan couldn’t change David…only God could do that and only if David was willing…but Nathan had a responsibility to speak truth in love to his friend – to call out lack in order to call out greatness.

      And this too isn’t just about sin, but about living fully into who we are in Christ. If you see something in me that I’m ingnoring or something that has me bound up, because of your love for me and desire to see me live into my fullest potential, I would want you to call those things out in me, speak truth to me, teach me, point me back in the right direction.

      love you too!!

      • yes. definitely. truth in love. i have that same issue – when i see someone not living fully into who they are in christ and i mistake compassion for frustration and make it personal instead of a spiritual matter. it’s just not easy. but, you are right. love does always win. i think…in times like what you just described, though…there has to be an open door for that type of conversation to happen, you know? if someone isn’t open to hearing it, even in love, then i have to release them into the arms of jesus and then draw boundaries around our relationship.

        there’s always a lesson in grace to be learned. lucky you! 🙂


  2. Pingback: The 3rd time is the charm. The 61st evidentally is not. | Covered in His Dust

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