Do we love because we are loved? Do we help only those who have helped us? Do we “pay it forward” only because we first received? One of the great sins the Lord has shown me in my life, and I believe in the life of His people, is the sin of expectations. One thing I have learned over the years is that expectations are the greatest relationship killer known to man. I have been married for 20 years, and over the years I have been disappointed by my husband, and I am positive that I have disappointed my husband just as much if not more. These disappointments are no one’s fault but my own because every time I expect him to behave, act or respond in a certain way and he doesn’t- I get disappointed. I expect him to love me, yet when it comes down to it, do I love him first?
We expect our husbands to appreciate all that we do for them and for the family on a daily basis, but when was the last time you thanked your husband or told him how much you appreciated his hard work, day after day? We expect others to do as we would do, yet we will not budge one inch when they ask us to do things for them. We expect yet we are the ones who are the biggest disappointments.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45 ESV
Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. We all know the great commandments to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet, I find that more and more we only love those who love us, and fall into the sin of expectation. Any time someone does not meet my expectations and I become disappointed, I have failed to love them the way God has called me to love them. Why do I say this? Because love does not put expectations upon others, love just loves. We expect so much from one another yet we refuse to give as much as we expect in return. True love, godly love comes from within us and it never expects anything in return. Love never expects- period.
Look at Jesus, our perfect example of love. He loved even though we stood there calling out for Him to be crucified. He did not look at the crowd in disappointment, because He never expected them to love Him. What does the bible teach us? We love because He loved us first. (1 John 4:19) He did not expect anything from us, only hoped that one day, through His willingness to love us; we would come to love Him as well. So many of us go through this life disappointed, instead of recognizing our disappointment for what it is-a testimony to the truth that you are not walking in love. Paul tells us that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Love endures the failures of others, and it even endures your failures too. It all boils down to this simple truth; the part of our hearts that we are unwilling to let go of, that part of us that we still believe is “all about me”. Expectations are a mirror into the very harsh truth that we are still seeking this life to be all about me.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46-48 ESV
We expect so much from others, yet we are unwilling to meet our own demands. We love those who love us when God has called us to love even if they never love us back. We expect others to treat us with kindness, yet we are unwilling to treat anyone else kindly. We expect to be appreciated yet we never say thank you. We walk away from friendships, marriages, family and churches because someone didn’t treat us the way we thought we should have been treated. Can we please get over ourselves already? Can we please get back to what it truly means to love our neighbor? Can we get back to loving others for the sake of love and not for the sake of self?
We are called to be different. Jesus tells us that we are to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect. We expect to be called the sons and daughters of God, yet we do not love as He loved. We do not show love unless we are first loved. We are called to be a testimony to a lost world. We are called to be showing forth the love of Jesus Christ and that through our perfect love- not expecting anything in return love- others will see the love of Jesus Christ that was shed abroad for them. Yet, when it comes down to it, the only person we truly love is ourselves.
John tells us that we know what love is because we saw it exemplified in Jesus. Yet when it comes to us laying down our expectations, our wants, our desires to be treated a specific way; we refuse to show that same kind of love. (1 John 3:16) Jesus was reviled, beaten, thorns pressed into His head, nails pierced His hands and feet, and then He willingly hung there on that cross so that we might come to love Him one day just as much as He loves us. Yet, we are unwilling to do the same for our husbands, our wives, our friends, our family, our neighbor.
We choose rather to love after we have been loved. We choose to be respectful after we have received respect. We choose to appreciate after they show their appreciation for us. We choose to live in our sinful expectations rather than walk in the sacrificial love that we have been called to. If we are going to call ourselves Christians then we need to start loving first and expecting nothing in return- from anyone, ever. Without this kind of love, without this example of love being shown to the world we have become nothing but loud gongs and clanging cymbals. Love is for all of us; the evil and the good, the just and the unjust. If we cannot love without expectations then we might as well not love at all. Amen.