Expectations and the Golden Rule

Expectations and the Golden Rule

Have people expected things of you which you knew nothing about?

Reingard Schwenger has two sons. They live in Freudenstadt, a little town in the Blackwood Forest in Germany. She enjoys reading and playing the piano.

We had been in our last district for awhile when I had an encounter with a single woman in our church. She told me how disappointed she had been with me. I was aghast. What had I done to disappoint her? She proceeded to tell me how excited she had been when she found I was moving into the area. Because we were close in age, she thought we could become good friends. So she observed me for a few weeks. She saw that I did not greet every single person with a handshake even though I was a pastor's wife. She was very disap­pointed because I did not fit the image she had of a pastor's wife. Needless to say, I was completely dumbfounded.

Have you ever experienced a situation similar to the one I had? Have people expected things of you which you knew nothing about? Perhaps people have withdrawn from you and you never knew why. Or perhaps you've been on the other side. Someone did not do or act in a certain way and you were disappointed in her.

Do you belong to one of these groups? Are you a person who has expectations of others or are you the person others expect things of because of your position? Probably all of us have experienced both.

What do we do with expectations? Must we fulfill all the expectations of others? Do we have to fulfill any? Do other people have the right to expect things of us? Arc there just and unjust expectations?

Jesus dealt with expectations all the time. The Bible tells us how Jesus dealt with them. Jesus helped when people asked for help.

Matthew 8:1-4 tells how a leper asked Jesus to heal him and Jesus did. Matthew 14:28-31 describes a scenario where the disciples were in a boat. Suddenly Jesus came toward them. He was walking on water. Peter wanted to join Jesus on the water. When he looked away from Jesus, he began to sink. Peter asked Jesus for help and Jesus saved him. The passages in Matthew 9:27-29 tell how Jesus healed some blind people because of their faith in Him. These are just a few examples of Jesus' response to those who asked for help. Throughout the Bible, we find people in need. They had expectations of Jesus and they expressed them. When they asked Jesus for help, He gave it. He knew, what they needed before they asked, but He fulfilled their expectations only when they verbalized their needs.

Sometimes Jesus helped those who didn't ask.

According to Matthew 8:28-32, two possessed people were healed by Jesus. Matthew 1:22 tells of a possessed person who was blind and dumb. Jesus healed him. In both cases, there is no report that Jesus was asked to heal these persons. They were not able to express their needs, but Jesus knew their needs better than they did themselves.

Sometimes Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of people, even when they asked him to.

We read about the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Matthew 16:1-4. They wanted to test Jesus and asked Him to perform a miracle. Also, the high priest and elders asked Jesus to show His authority. Jesus knew these people had no real needs or questions; He knew their motives were false. They were not in need. Jesus did not fulfill all unspoken expectations.

The Jewish people expected a Messiah who would free them of Roman rule. Jesus did not fulfill those expectations, The Pharisees wanted Jesus to respect and take notice of them. He did not. The disciples' world fell apart when Jesus died. They had hoped He would be a great ruler and they would be His officials. Jesus did not fulfill those expectations. Jesus did not fulfill people's expectations when all they wanted were compensations for their good deeds.

Those people who do things because they hope to be compensated will find themselves shunned by Jesus. One day, Jesus will say to such people, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" Matthew 7:21-23.

We do well when we learn from Jesus. He fulfilled some expectations while ignoring others. He made some people happy while putting others off. It is not possible nor even good to try and fulfill all expectations. Of course, Jesus had a big advantage over us. He could look into people's hearts and see their real motives, wishes, and needs. We can't read others' thoughts or see wishes in their eyes. Neither can they see ours. Certainly when we know someone really well, we can better guess their motivations but mistakes do happen. Therefore, it is important to express our expectations. We should not expect a person to automatically know our needs. Jesus loved to help people but He often waited for them to ask for His help.

Paul Wattalawick tells the following story in his book, Directions for Being Unhappy. A man wants to hang a picture. He has a nail but no hammer. The neighbor has one. And so the man decides to ask the neighbor to lend him a hammer. But then he thinks, "What if my neighbor refuses to lend me his hammer? Only yesterday he hardly greeted me. Maybe he was in a hurry. But maybe his hurry was only pretense and he has a grudge against me? But why? I haven't done anything to hurt him; he must be imagining things. If somebody wanted to borrow a tool from me, I would give it right away. Why doesn't he? How can he refuse such a little favor? People like him just poison your life. And then he even imagines that I depend on him. Only because he has a hammer. No, that's too much!

And so he rushes to the neighbor's house and rings the doorbell. The neighbor opens the door and the man shouts, "Keep your old hammer, you boor!"

Such is the case when we think we know what others are thinking!

If you live your life with an attitude of expectation, you make your own life and the life of others unnecessarily difficult. Your own will be difficult because you will be disappointed over and over, Others, because you will put them under pressure. It is impossible to react normally to people who have decidedly expectant attitude. They will always be thin king,"Have I done everything right? Have I omitted something I should have done?"

Does it mean it is wrong to have expectations? And if you do, what should you do with them? )esus answers these questions when he gave us the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" Matthew 7:12. Jesus wants us to be active in doing good. In other words:

If you want someone to approach you, you should approach others.

If you want to be invited, you should invite others.

If you want respect, you should respect others.

If you want others to take part in your life, you should take part in others' lives.

If you want someone to help you, you should help others.

If you want someone to call you, you should call others.

If you want someone to visit you, you should visit others.

If you want others to speak to you kindly, you should speak kindly to others.

The list could go on forever.

My grandmother wrote the following in my friendship book: "Do you want happiness in life? Then make others happy, for the joy we give returns into our hearts."

So few words, but so true. Jesus gave us the Golden Rule because He wanted to give us something good. He knew that people who live according to this rule always get returns of something good and they feel as if they were receiving a gift although they are the ones who are giving.

God wants us to experience how happy it makes us when we can help to make others happy. Our lives will be richer when we enrich the lives of others. Our lives are empty when we think only of ourselves and our own expectations.

Reingard Schwenger has two sons. They live in Freudenstadt, a little town in the Blackwood Forest in Germany. She enjoys reading and playing the piano.