Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unfulfilled Expections

One of the most frustrating things we can encounter is unfulfilled expectations. Five minutes is not long to wait, but if you expected someone to be on time it can be irritating. This can be a common source of frictions in churches. People expect a church to be a certain way and become angry when it fails to live up to it. Congregations expect leaders to fit a certain mold and are upset when they do not. Leaders expect congregations to behave certain ways and become bitter and cynical when this does not happen. And people on both sides can end up tearing apart churches and destroying relationships, all the while being assured they must be right. Is there a way to avoid this?

Now I do not want to deny that there are serious issues of Christian behavior or Christian teaching that must be dealt with (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; Jude 3). But we need to carefully distinguish between clear violations of Christian principles and an individual or group not meeting up to our personal ideals. We are all people in the process of being transformed into who God wants us to be (Philippians 3:12-16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10). It is important for us to encourage one another in this journey (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Ephesians 4:11-16). But it is easy to slip from required correction and needed encouragement to standing in judgment on another person's progress in the spiritual life (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Romans 14:4; 2:1). And there is nothing like unmet expectations to send us down this path. Now I do not want to lower the goal, which is God's righteousness (Romans 8:29; Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 4:23,24). But we are involved in a lifelong growth process, with this as the ultimate destination, and we are not there yet. Given that, we may need to put our expectations in perspective. And we need to remember the grace of God, which not only covers our sins, but those of our fellow believers (Romans 8:33,34; Hebrews 8:12; 1 Peter 4:8). Particularly when what is involved may be differences of methodology and personality rather than actual sin.

Now I do not want to suggest total cynicism or pessimism. But I do believe there needs to be a realistic balance between that and high-flown expectations that never live up to their press. And the irony is that we can, by pursuing unobtainable goals, miss the genuine relationships that can be developed in the real world if we just take a more measured view of things.

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