Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few weeks ago I was listening to a message about biblical manhood and womanhood, and how the two intersect, by Matt Chandler (which you can find here if you’re interested). Chandler begins this series by talking about how we’re made in the image of God; known as the Imago Dei. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .” Most Christians believe this scriptural passage refers to the fact that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.

Remember how I just finished Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples? Well, Francis Chan wrote that God has given humanity the responsibility to reflect Him to the world (Chan, pp. 144-145). (This can be found in the Word, as well. Check out Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10; and Ephesians 2:10, 4:24.) Chandler’s message reminded me of something that I remember studying a while ago in a Wednesday night Bible study: because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve to be treated with respect and should treat others with respect.Fish Pic

Interestingly enough, this is considered countercultural in the world we live in now. The world tells us that respect is earned, but the Word tells us that respect is given because God created us in His image. This means that everyone is to be treated with respect, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they do or don’t do. I have this little metal fish on my desk at work with scripture cards and I flipped the little card this week (side note: I actually began this post two weeks ago.) to the following scripture: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). As I meditated over this scripture I noted that this doesn’t say, treat others as they treat you. It says you treat them like you want them to treat you! To me, that means being gracious, generous, kind, loving, and compassionate regardless of how they treat you. Recall that Jesus said the following in Luke…

If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. ~ Luke 6:32-36

I love how verse 36 reminds us that God is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” because so often I feel that we treat people based on what we think they “deserve.” However, I’m reminded of Jonah—we were studying the book of Jonah last week in our ladies’ Bible study—and how he didn’t believe the people of Ninevah deserved God’s grace and mercy, but upon their repentance, God granted just that!

Some of my favorite verses this year can be found in Exodus; in 33:19 God tells Moses that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He shows compassion. Peter says something along these lines in Acts 10:34-35 when he says “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.” As does James in James 2:1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” God desires that we treat all people with equal love and respect!

In the end what will we do? Be angry like Jonah because God shows love and grace? Or will we realize that God extends that same love and grace towards us, though, we too are undeserving? The truth is, we’re all on equal standing before the cross…not one of us “deserves” His grace; in fact, the amplified Bible defines grace as free and unmerited favor. Unmerited meaning undeserving, unwarranted, and unearned. We must remember that just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis added) and we are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not based on ourselves or anything that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In conclusion, we must remember that we were all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are to respect those around us and treat them as we want to be treated; and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, where He tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute and/or hurt us. I’m going to end with the famous “love is” passage from 1 Corinthians. For some reason we tend to believe that this passage only applies to marriages, but it doesn’t; it describes what love is and how we are to apply it in all areas of our lives.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The Power of Love

Funny how God uses basic every day experiences to teach us invaluable lessons. I’ve been watching that show, “Once Upon a Time,” on CBS. The show is based on all the fairy tales/characters that have been passed down from generation to generation, for the past couple hundred years. In the season finale of season one, the main character, breaks a curse over the town with a kiss of true love which she bestows on her “dead” son (think Snow White). And it really hit me…how obsessed the world is with LOVE. From sacrificial love, such as found in books/movies like Harry Potter, Johnny Q., and Man on Fire, to romantic love like that in Twilight, The Notebook, and Romeo & Juliet…our society is truly obsessed with love.

This idea is definitely not new to me, I’ve been studying love for a long time now, but for some reason this idea really stood out to me as I watched “Once Upon a Time.” Especially because the characters have stated on more than one occasion that “love is the greatest magic of all” and “it has the power to break even the strongest curse.” Wow! Love has the power to break even the strongest curse; what a statement!

So, what’s the one thing that most, if not all, of our love stories have in common? There’s always some force trying to separate or prevent love or goodness from occurring, correct? That’s because, there is no greater curse than separation from love.

When man fell in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of creation the curse bestowed upon all of mankind was just that, separation from love, more specifically, separation from God, because God is love (1 John 4:8). The world recognizes that there’s power in love, but they still haven’t grasped just how much power.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God loves us so much that He sent His Son into this world, to die for us, so that the curse—our separation from God—might be lifted!

God provided the greatest—NONFICTION—love story ever told, when He sent His Son into this world as a sacrifice for our sins. His love affected ALL mankind, past, present, and future, regardless of our own actions or character. He died not just for those of us considered “good” but the dirtiest of dirty, the murderer, the rapist, the drunkard. His love provided us all with the opportunity for restoration of our broken relationship with God.

I’m sure you’re confused…”the opportunity”? Yes, because God provided the opportunity for a restored relationship with Him; a gift offered freely to us, known as grace. Yet, we must receive the gift; we must accept it. Grace is there for the taking, but we still have a choice in whether or not to take it; and as we take it, we must acknowledge the sin in our lives, become truly repentant before God, and turn away from those sins. This is why God’s word says that no one can come to the Father unless they are called…because true repentance and sorrow comes only when the light of God shines into every nook and cranny of our lives and we recognize how filthy we are in the light of His glory. And true repentance and sorrow is not being remorseful about the consequences of our actions, but being repentant for our actions, period.

God’s love is more powerful than any earthly love, and yes, His love does have the power to break the strongest curse. His love conquered the grave and defeated death! His love restored our broken relationship with Himself, and allowed us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him! What an amazing God—full of love, mercy, and compassion—that we serve! A God full of power and justice, and yet full of such tenderness and grace.