Patient but not tolerant

Patience is a virtue, but nowhere in scripture are we told to be tolerant of sin. And this truth makes the world hate us, as Jesus warned that it would.

The same holds true for behaviors that are unwise, unhealthy, or misguided. Patience is called for, and often, when we feel impatient, we try to cure this by tolerating whatever is testing our patience.

The real cure is an active relationship with the Holy Spirit. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.

Think of the toddler who misbehaves. We teach him how to be a good boy, by the action we take in response. Is it impatience that drives our response, or is it intolerance of the bad behavior? If it’s impatience, and if we improve ourselves by becoming more patient, the child seeks a new way to test our patience. But if it’s intolerance, we draw the line between what is right and what is wrong, firmly and consistently, and the child learns to respect the limitation.

Now think of the last thing someone did that tested your patience. To love like Christ is to respond with patience, but not with tolerance. Tolerance makes us look away — and then nothing gets resolved or improved. Patience needs to be combined with “no, this is not right” or “please stop, let’s pray about this before we discuss it further” or whatever response from us draws a line between right and wrong, holy and sinful, wise and unhealthy.

Sometimes, the only healthy response is to walk away. Sometimes, the holy response is to do what Jesus told his disciples to do: Shake the dust from your feet and leave (Matt. 10:14). But if we’re called to stay and make a difference, patience gives us strength to draw the line calmly, compassionately, lovingly. Often, this is supernatural. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit by drawing our own line between reacting and stopping to pray before we respond. And we might have to remove ourselves from the room to do this.

Toddlers are happier when they know their limits and feel protected from whatever lies beyond. We never outgrow this, though we try. Perhaps a family member or spouse is testing our patience as proof that we really, truly love him/her no matter what. (Perhaps we test their love, too!) The words, spoken patiently, “no, I’m sorry, we can’t continue this conversation until we’ve both calmed down,” is true love.

— Good News Ministries