Recently someone was expressing some disappointment in someone they knew who was unsaved not doing enough of something for them. This person they were irritated with was doing some kind acts, but not as many as the person would have hoped for (or, if I'm honest, as many as most of us would have hoped for in the same situation). As I talked with Mary Ann about this person's feelings I suddenly had a thought/question pop into my head, "Just how much should we expect (the key word) from an unsaved person?"
I started to think about some verses I had recently used in a teaching that describe our state/nature before we are born again in Christ. Some of them are:
Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Just in these two verses alone we see that the Bible says that people not born again with a new nature in Christ (and us in our prior nature) are (remember this is through God's eyes, the only eyes that ultimately matter):
1. alienated from God
2. hostile in mind toward God
3. doing evil deeds (remember that God alone is good)
4. spiritually dead in the sins and trespassed they are walking in
5. following the course of this world and its ways
6. following the prince of this world (Satan, whom is the only alternative to following God)
7. living in the passions and leadings of the flesh
8. carrying out the desires of their body and mind
9. by their very nature children of wrath
When we realize this (and look at our own pre-Christ nature) I thought, "Wow! Any love, kindness, etc. from someone unsaved is an amazing and awesome gift and a tremendous breaking out of the nature that rules the world and defines its ways! There should be no expectancy of anything, but tremendous gratitude at what is done or given, because it is not the nature of the world."
Then the sobering second half of it hit me.
Colossians 1:22 . . . he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If all those things are true of the unsaved, then the following are, according to the Bible, true of the saved (those born again as new creations in Christ with God Himself living within them):
1. reconciled to God by the death of God Himself!
2. holy and blameless and above reproach in Christ
3. recognizing the love of God for us and the great gift He gave us
4. eternally and presently alive in Christ
6. seated with Christ
7. recipients of His great gift
8. created for good works, to walk in them
So . . . if the expectation of goodness from the unsaved is based on what the Bible says about their nature, then what does our new nature say should be the expectation of goodness from us? It strikes me that a logical application of this approach makes a stunning statement of how we should shine as lights in the world and be salt in the earth. When I reflect on my new nature and what God has done for me I am awed, humbled, and challenged to realize the life that would truly bear out and reflect those realities and stand out from the world and its nature and ways.
I am still processing these two trains of thought, but I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have.The more I reflect on this the more I find deep gratitude in my heart to the unsaved in my life who express kindness to me, and the more I find myself challenging my own expressing of the love of Christ through me. I don't ever want to expect anything—Christ didn't trust Himself to men because He knew what was in men—I just want to be a person grateful for any kindness shown me, and one who loves others as I have been loved. The burden to not live as the world is definitely on the ones no longer of this world, not on the ones who are still of it. May we joyously show to others the love that has been first shown us. May our lives show Jesus to the world!