vs. Prejudice
Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity

Key Verse

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
Philippians 2:2

The operational definition of tolerance is “acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity.” Tolerance is extending grace to those who lack wisdom or maturity, realizing everyone is at different stages of personal growth. Sometimes you may be irritated by someone’s childishness, mistakes, or lack of experience. How can a person overcome his irritation? A believer can ask God to show him how God sees people. (See Romans 5:8.) When believers value people, they are able to understand, forbear, or be patient with others. God can help a believer to recognize that he also has faults, mannerisms, or characteristics that require grace from others. Understanding his own faults can give him insight to accept others where they are in their lives. God gives grace to the humble! As one walks in the Spirit, he will manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which includes love and longsuffering. (See Galatians 5:22–25.)

An oyster responds to an invasive grain of sand with nacre to form a precious pearl. Likewise, we can respond with humilty and tolerance, allowing God to form His priceless character in us.
People with prejudiced opinions have no patience for those who do not “measure up” to their expectations. Their intolerance can reject or hurt others, overlooking their potential.

The opposite of tolerance is prejudice. A prejudiced person has a false sense of superiority and judges others from that position. He categorizes people and dislikes certain ones for superficial reasons. He disdains those who are different from himself. Even before he knows a person well, he makes assumptions and forms opinions. Viewing others with a critical eye, he mocks or excludes those whom he dislikes. Prejudging people is just one aspect of intolerance. An intolerant person lacks the humility and maturity to appreciate and respect others. He considers character flaws to be unchanging traits that define the offender, and he assumes there is no hope for improvement. Thus, the intolerant person has no reason to give others opportunity or time to change. He simply ignores or avoids those who make him uncomfort­able. His uncaring actions are hurtful, and his preconceived ideas cut off relationships that might have benefited himself and others.

Evaluation Questions

  • Am I viewing each person as a valued individual created in God’s image?
  • When I see others’ faults, do I consider that I also have faults and need grace?
  • Am I kind and respectful to everyone regardless of their physical appearance or my first impression?
  • Rather than focus on differences, do I look for common ground with others?
  • Do I respond respectfully to people regardless of their viewpoints?
  • Does my irritation with others cause me to miss opportunities to encourage them?
  • When annoyed or frustrated, am I asking God to change my perspective and help me to grow?
  • Do I consider how much a person has matured, or do I focus on how much he needs to grow?
  • Do I kindly respond to others without justifying immature behavior?

More About Tolerance

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all of these.”
George Washington Carver
Transformation results as we behold the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As we see God’s character through testimonies in Scripture, we grow in our understanding and obedience to His Word. Here are ten aspects of Tolerance with supporting verses found in God’s Word.

God enables me to:


Look beyond appearances.

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” JOHN 7:24

View people as He does.

“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” JAMES 2:8–9

See the true worth of people.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” ROMANS 5:6

Examine myself first.

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” LUKE 6:41–42

See deeper needs.

“He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” PROVERBS 14:21

Discern between what is right and what is popular.

“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” GALATIANS 1:10

Help others grow in character.

“Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” I CORINTHIANS 8:13

Share how He has worked in me.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Psalm 51:10–13

Maintain His standards.

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” TITUS 3:8

Respond with grace.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” ECCLESIASTES 10:12

Tolerance in Scripture

Ananias Sees Saul Through God’s Eyes

“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Acts 9:17
Saul studied for many years, learning philosophy from the Greeks and law from Jewish Pharisees. His goal was to serve God and punish those who appeared to be disobeying the Law of God. As the Christian martyr Stephen was stoned to death for his faith in Christ, Saul watched approvingly. Zealous to extinguish the early Church, Saul invaded Christian homes and threw believers into prison. When Saul heard that the Gospel had spread to the city of Damascus, he sought approval from the high priest to arrest Christians there. After securing the desired papers, Saul embarked on the 130-mile journey. As he neared Damascus, a bright light from Heaven shone on the determined persecutor! He fell to the ground, stunned. Saul trembled as he heard Jesus speak to him, and he asked, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” When Saul opened his eyes, he saw nothing! Blind and humbled, he had to be led into the city, where he lodged for three days, neither eating nor drinking. How would God direct a Christian named Ananias to minister to Saul? What fears would Ananias have? Would he be willing to see Saul as God did, or would he view the persecutor only in light of the man’s terrible treatment of Christians?

Revealed in Nature

Eastern Box Turtle

The eastern box turtle rests in the security of its protective covering. It endures the irritations of curious predators as they try in vain to pry open its hinged shell. Once the irritation is gone, the turtle confidently resumes its activity.

For Kids

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum

The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum uses examples from the lives of men and women in the Bible whose walk with God resulted in good character or whose lack of faith produced poor character. Through this study, children learn how to overcome frustration and respond to annoying behaviors with grace.

View the Tolerance booklet sample:

Get the complete Tolerance booklet with all four lessons & activities:

Free Resources for Tolerance

Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!

Bible Story Coloring Page
Verse & Definition Word Search
Related Hymn Sheet Music
Tolerance is being more concerned with communicating Christ’s love and truth than changing outward appearance or attitudes.