Galatians 5:13 – Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (NIV)
Mark 10:8 – And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. (NIV)
How many of us have had this experience? You walk into the kitchen and see a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, dishes that someone else is supposed to have washed long before. The sight of the mess is distasteful, and feelings of annoyance, even anger, rise within you. Thoughts form: "If only he would switch off the television and finish his chores!" or perhaps: "If only she would get off the phone and clean up!" What is our expectation here? We are expecting someone else to work, to "hold up their end of the deal", to do their duty. Is that a "Christian" attitude? Jesus himself expected many things of his followers, summarized with the command, "Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself." So it would seem that expectation itself is not in error. But we must guard against being judgmental, or critical in a destructive way. We are strongly warned against that in Matthew 7:1-2: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
So how did Jesus respond when his disciples did not live up to their promises? Unlike us, the Lord did not respond with annoyance or anger. He responded with compassion, with understanding. He responded with love.
What if our thoughts were different? Not just forced to be different, but spontaneously different? How can we turn from the critical, negative frame of mind to an uplifting, positive attitude? One way is by managing our expectations. Am I expecting my partner to clean up because it is "their turn"? Do I demand that my room-mate conquer the greasy mountain of crockery because they promised to? If so, and the chore is left undone, then perhaps I could help fulfill the promise by doing it myself. What is our expectation? In today's Scripture, Paul tells us to "serve one another in love" Shouldn't we expect to serve? If it is your spouse who is the dish-washing delinquent, then you are to be "as one flesh", a single organism. But this applies to everyone in our Christian community, as we are all parts of the body of Christ on earth. What better way to show love than to perform a loathsome task, not with a scowl, but with a smile. You don't have to like the chore to get something positive out of it. Even the most spiritual of men, Brother Lawrence, was repulsed by the mundane and menial tasks set before him. But he found a surprising way through his difficulty. He found that when we offer our work to God, we can rise above the tasks, and we will know that with each meal cooked, each dish washed, we are not just helping another Christian soul, but we are growing in love also. When the expectation is love, any relationship, whether with God or with our fellow human travellers, will grow more beautiful each day.
Prayer: Lord, in our materialistic world, self-sacrifice is so often assigned no value. Help us to grow nearer to you in goodness so that we may value loving acts of selflessness for the priceless gifts they truly are. Amen.