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Expectations

“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 NKJV).

Travelers often get into awkward situations simply because they are not familiar with the customs and practices of their hosts. This happens regularly when one is visiting people of his own nation, even from his own family. It often causes much more serious consequences when one is in another nation with a very different culture.

When I am invited to attend a ceremony (school graduation of a child, or birthday or wedding) in Asia I usually ask my friends there, “Am I expected to bring a gift? How should I dress? Is there anything else I need to know about this event?” Failure to go prepared would not only cause embarrassment, but possibly harm future relationships. Sensitivity to the probable expectations of my hosts is good manners and common sense.

This principle also works in reverse. The hosts have an obligation to be aware of expectations I may have. Will food be served? If this is likely to be a long event it is reasonable to expect that some type of refreshments will be offered. If I know otherwise, I will eat before I go. But if a meal is involved, I may be perceived as rude if I don’t eat there.

We all have expectations of others. Not just in host-guest situations, but in all of our interactions and relationships. Sometimes our expectations are reasonable and justified, but often they exceed those boundaries.

Job was offended by the attitude of his friends who came to comfort him. Rather than empathize with his suffering, they felt compelled to demand repentance from the sins he obviously (to them) had committed. That was the only way he could find relief, at least in their view.

Job responded to their condemnation with his perspective of what a loyal friend does. They (the three friends) should be kind, even if their friend (Job) is a sinner – even if he had rejected God. Each side in this debate was projecting their own views upon the other. Neither was consulting God for truth.

One of the most common practices today is that of expecting others, including God, to act according to our desires. “If you really love me you will . . .” Each one has their own definition of love and makes demands on others to demonstrate theirs according to that pattern.

Similarly, we often hear statements like these: “God is love, therefore he would never send one of his children to eternal torment;” “A just God could never condemn someone who had never heard the gospel;” “Surely God is most concerned about sincerity, therefore even if we believe and practice that which is incorrect he will forgive us.”

There are numerous passages which directly address all of these statements and from which we may clearly see that God’s nature is misunderstood or misapplied by them. He has revealed to us exactly what he will do and what he requires of us. It is our role to expect him to be faithful to his word (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2) rather than to our desires.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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