The Question of Tolerance

The Question of Tolerance

When people come into the ER with aches and sores, we usually ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. That’s because pain is subjective and this is practically the only way we can quantify and measure it. But again, the scale by which one person measures his or her experience, although it is within the same ten-point range, varies from patient to patient. And this is on account of something that we call pain tolerance.

Are you sure you’re in pain?

Some people, for whatever reason, are able to bear more pain, more suffering than others. Consequently, these people would rate what would commonly be a high-level pain as a 5. The lady in the first bed whose objective, quantifiable measurements suggest that she must clearly be in sheer torture may very easily manage a smile between horrendous contractions, whereas the teenager who scraped her knee playing soccer might drown an entire row of beds with deafening screams.

But tolerance is different in matters of judging between right and wrong.

How much sin we can live withIt's not about the extent to which something happened or did not happen; it's whether we choose to confront evil and call it what it is, or simply let it pass because it 'wasn't enough of a big deal.'

Each of us has a different opinion regarding the amount of evil we allow in our lives. An episode from the television series Boardwalk Empire has its main character explain away his own acts of murder and villainy with a rather striking justification, “We all have to decide for ourselves how much sin we can live with.”

Is this the kind of thinking that now runs modern culture? Since we seem to be powerless against the ever-present lure of temptation and the deceiving beauty of evil, are we then free to pick and choose which of the delectable selections we can complacently put under our pillows and sleep with at night? Is gossip a lesser evil than theft and is therefore not a punishable crime?

Tipping the scales

“Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him,” Jesus says in 1 John 3:15. Unlike murder, hate in modern society does not warrant capital punishment. The human justice system does not even consider it an offense but a mere response – a natural tendency – for someone who has been a victim of injustice. Yet obviously, there is a difference between human standards and the standards of God.

This doesn’t mean, however, that Christians should believe themselves to be gods. But in the act of following God, the embodiment of and regard for His ideals ought to be of highest priority. How else can we convince others of the relevance and necessity of Christ’s death on the cross if we ourselves avoid addressing sin simply because we “don’t like to talk about it,” or “don’t want to stir up trouble”?


Can we tolerate hate, but not murder?
Can we tolerate dishonesty, but not fraud?
Is emotional abuse better than physical violence?
Is it okay to put up with indecency as long as it doesn’t end in rape?

“What about mercy,” you ask, “What about grace?”

Romans 6:1-2 replies, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”

We are all guilty of wrongdoing, this much is true. But this doesn’t mean we forfeit our Christian responsibility of upholding what is right. It’s not about the extent to which something happened or did not happen; it’s whether we choose to confront evil and call it what it is, or simply let it pass because it ‘wasn’t enough of a big deal.’

… because, as the Lord’s pain score would have it, there isn’t really much of a difference..