FIRST-PERSON: Reasonable expectations for unbelievers
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (BP) -- You made some rotten decisions prior to coming to Christ. Some of those choices included unkind words that you regret saying and reactions that were vengeful. Thankfully, God's mercy met you where you were and lifted you up.
As your relationship with God began, so did your growth and walk toward spiritual maturity. You haven't arrived yet, but at least you're on the right path. This is all part of God's grace, because even in those regretful moments before your profession of faith in Christ, God was showing you mercy.
The only reasonable response to such a great covering of mercy is to show that same mercy to others, especially those outside the faith who need Christ. Our immediate and lasting response should be to have reasonable expectations for unbelievers.
A great example of this in the Bible is Matthew. By occupation, he collected taxes for the Romans. Tax collectors in general were hated, but the disdain for Matthew was magnified because he was enforcing Roman taxation on his own people.
Growing up in the line of priests, Matthew had rejected the Jewish religion. But Jesus reached Matthew there in his tax collecting booth and began to give him a life beyond the hypocrisy he had seen in the religion he grew up in, and beyond his regrets and shame.
As the Bible recounts, Jesus took note of Matthew and said to him, "Follow Me." After being called to follow Jesus, Matthew wasted no time. He followed Jesus and then invited his friends, who were some of the "big sinners" of the day, to meet Jesus at his home. Matthew's actions provide clear steps we can take as well as reasonable expectations we can have for our friends who need Christ.
When you see the worst in people, pray for God's best.
Like you, the people around you will make horrible mistakes. Some of those sins will be directly committed against you. With this in mind, expect to be let down, expect to be discouraged, expect to be offended, but don't let that stop you from praying. You can specifically pray for God to change the heart and mind of that person toward His will.
When you see selfishness, pray for surrender.
The hurtful and damaging decisions that we make involve selfishness. This is true of you and everyone around you. Expect people to be selfish, but constantly be praying for those same people to surrender to God.
Matthew can be seen in both of these instances. As a tax collector he was the worst of the worst but Jesus saw God's best.
As a result he surrendered and followed the Lord, then penned the beautiful Gospel of Matthew which serves as a bridge from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Based on Matthew's example, you can have reasonable expectations for the shortcomings of others, but you can also have righteous prayers for their transformation.