A few months ago, I was talking to some friends, only to find that they actually weren’t friends with me anymore after all. We had never had a fight, we’d never had a falling-out of any kind, but somewhere along the line they decided they didn’t like me. They had all kinds of reasons – I was mean-spirited, I was vain, I was Republican, I was this that and something else too. They never told me why they thought these things about me. They had no reasons. They had just made assumptions and stereotypes, and based their opinions from that. They didn’t talk to me first, they didn’t pass go. They just decided. People who were supposed to be my friends. And meanwhile, they have all these quotes and sayings all over the place about not judging people. Today, I had a big urge to get in touch with them again, if only to point out the irony of their words vs their behavior.
I curbed the urge, but I was confused on what to do. They aren’t Christian, and if they knew how wrong they were and I could forgive, maybe it’d give them a piece of God’s love. Or maybe it’s a lesson for me in how to get over things. Without further direction, I didn’t act one way or the other.
Then, I skyped in to my old church tonight. And what was the message God had for us? How we need to drop our expectations of what people should be. Drop our expectations of what a good friend looks like, what a good parent looks like, what a good leader or boss looks like. Not drop our standards for our own behavior, but drop our expectations. We need to drop those things because they don’t affect how the other person acts; they affect how we perceive them. And in the end, since nobody is perfect, our expecations only get in the way of how we can love the people in our lives. Because at some point, everybody will fall short of our expectations, sometimes far short, and then we might harbor unforgiveness. Will we forgive? Sure. We’re Christian. But getting to a place where we have to forgive someone for something, when their only fault really is that they’re as broken and imperfect as we are, isn’t necessarily a good idea. Rather than placing expectations on people, putting that yoke on them and allowing them to fail (because that’s what expectations do, really), and then having to forgive them for failing to carry the yoke that we placed on them, we should just drop our expectations and love them as they are. That’s the way that Jesus loves us. Yes we do wrong. Yes He disciplines us. And there will be times where He moves us to intervene for someone or speak up against sin or a certain mindset. But ultimately, Jesus loves us as the broken, imperfect, failures that we are. Who are we to say we deserve it but the person who insulted us doesn’t? What do we really know of the other person’s heart anyway?
Someone put it really well when she said there are a lot of times in this life and in relationships (be it friend, spouse, or family member), where we genuinely are wronged. We genuinely are insulted, and we have every worldly right to be angry about it. But because we are citizens of Heaven, and we have God’s heart inside of us, we can’t claim our worldly right to anger. We know Jesus and He has remade us – all we can claim is our new identity in Him, that doesn’t depend on others. So in these situations, she literally asks herself “what would love do? How would love act here?” And with that simple question, she gets through a lot of situations.
What would love do? I would encourage us all to ask this. Another person’s behavior is not up to us. What is up to us is loving people regardless of their actions and their responses. If we were grounded in Christ’s love to the point where our identity and our thoughts and our actions came from Him, truly came from Him, it wouldn’t matter what other people did to us; we would be able to love them anyway.