They’ll get you every time.
They’ll bring you grief and aggravation, and make you gnash your teeth in frustration. I’m not talking about Barry Manilow songs. I’m talking about something far more subtle and subversive – your expectations.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (LK 6.35-36).
We live in a world of payback. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. But Jesus says do good to others without looking for payback from them. Love your spouse, your kids, and fellow Christians, even your enemies expecting NOTHING back from them, not even so much as a “Thank you.”
We parents say things to our kids like, “After all I’ve done for you, how could you do this to me”? In other words, “Since I’ve slaved for years providing for you, I EXPECT you to always be grateful, respectful and kind to me.” We want them to fall at our feet crying, “How can I thank you again today for all the food and clothing you provide, all the ball games you drive me to, and all the wisdom you give me? Thank you, thank you, thank you! Is there anything I can do for you? Clean the kitchen? Make my bed?” Ain’t gonna happen.
Our subconscious expectations of others are usually dashed. We clean the house and our spouse doesn’t notice. We take the kids to Disney World and the whine about not going to the beach. We loan a brother $500 and he never pays it back. And when our expectations don’t materialize, we get bitter.
So Jesus commands us to love “expecting nothing in return.” After all, this is what God is like.
He’s kind to the ungrateful. He lavishes blessings on committed rebels. And he dispayed his mercy most starkly on the cross when he crushed Jesus for us while we were his enemies. And Jesus himself healed lepers who never returned to thank him, fed thousands who didn’t believe in him, and prayed for those who nailed him to the cross.
Hoping others will repay the good we’ve done them will make us bitter, because they will rarely return the favor. But Christ can empower us love others without looking for anything in return.
And don’t worry. God is watching. Your reward will be great.
photo by Darwin Bell