By Japhet De Oliveira … Was it reasonable to expect that Cain would look after his brother Abel? Was it reasonable to expect that Sarah would bring the eldest son before her ailing husband for a blessing? Was it reasonable to expect that Jacob would not deceive his brother and father? Was it reasonable to expect Samson would not his break vows? Was it reasonable to expect that David would not sexually assault his best friend’s wife? Was it reasonable to expect Peter would not deny Jesus?
All familiar stories, and some would immediately counter with a strong retort, articulating the great expectations for each person and how they could have avoided the epic fails. They would reference model citizens like Daniel and Joseph. They would add that this is beyond reasonable and unacceptable to even consider; therefore, clearly all cases of great expectations.
We do have great expectations for others all the time. The fairly recent “big reveal” about the Royal family in England and the accusations of systematic racism illustrates this. We have great expectations for global pastors, like Bill Hybels, Ravi Zacharias, John Ortberg, and Carl Lentz, and when the horrible stories were “leaked” we question their entire ministry. Everything is out in the open today. Everyone is being watched. We have and demand great expectations.
In the early days of the Adventist Church, co-founder Ellen White would write letters of counsel to members about areas in their lives. In later years, when these were gathered together and published, the practice was to simply list the individuals as brother “A” or sister “B.” We protected the surviving family and living memory, as it was the lesson not the name which made the difference. Today, our culture has shifted. We have globally become the accusers of John, naming, and bringing those we have great expectations of to the public. We take pride in the countless websites and email newsletters that “reveal” when the great expectations have not been met.
It would seem that along with our great expectations of others we anticipate great failings. When you buy an old house, as Becky and I did decades ago back in England, you have great expectations for how this house will become a home. You soon discover not one layer of wallpaper but several layers from the previous owners. Not one layer of bathroom tiles but two and some are not tiles. Not one type of flooring but several surprises. There are some owners that simply place new thin fixes on top of the old ones in an attempt to meet the great expectations that others have for them. Our frustration is with the previous owners. They have failed us. We have great expectations, and they did not deliver.
It is easy to have great expectations of others. In every church, community or plant, people have had great expectations of their pastor. Some of those are exciting and some of them are unique. Some of them are heathy accountability and some of them are mind-bending, black-site directives. When the apostle Paul shared that he would be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel, I am confident, he had not met all the people from the 21st century.
Our expectations of others are necessary. There is a reason that we crumble and stumble in such open and catastrophic ways from the days of Cain to this day.
Perhaps, there is another way. Perhaps there is the way of Jesus, that is peppered through both the first and second testaments. Perhaps there is the way that calls us to stop deflecting the great expectations for ourselves onto others. What if you forgave yourself, as Jesus has forgiven you? What if you extended some self-grace, as Jesus has given you boundless grace? What if you took up the mantle as Jesus has given you the strength?
What is the great expectation today?
This pressure point to be perfect and present a more “amazing you,” is as ancient as time itself. We have to resist the shallow. We have to resist the calculated vulnerability. It is a glamor veneer.
The great expectation is to be a human of significant character. I am in the process of developing the new department of Story & Experience for Adventist Health. After I hired the core directors, we processed the culture that we wanted to develop for our department and the company as a whole. It’s an incredible privilege to seek brilliance, and find creatives for film, art, and events. Resumes, references, and requirements can all be absolutely top notch, but what you want to unlock, what you want to discover is character. The great expectation is that you find humans with strong character traits that are rooted in love.
“You shall love . . . your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, ESV).
It is easy to have great expectations of others; love, however, calls us to have great expectations of ourselves first. Jesus loves us and His love is pure. When you respond to that love, you are motivated by a different cause in your life. You understand your value. You wrestle like Jacob and become Israel. You sense the great expectation and true expectation from Jesus on your life—and you step up. That has to be primary.
This moves your focus and attention from the great expectation on others to what you can bring to the table today. The love of Jesus changes your character. It changes you in every sphere that you exist and influence. You are a living force for good. You bring joy to conversations and complex realties. You are a person who lifts those who are exhausted. You are suddenly fully replenished. Reflect just for one moment on the encounters Jesus had with people in the Gospels. Every person who accepted His love for them left replenished, energized, and motivated to love others.
This is the great expectation.
“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” —John 5:8 (ESV)
Jesus is the only true living source of all love, and the daily walk always starts with Him.
Today, accept the love of Jesus. Look in the mirror and know that you are beautiful. Jesus has great expectations for you. Allow Jesus to start with you.
–Japhet De Oliveira is story and experience executive for the Office of Culture at Adventist Health in Roseville, California. Email him at: [email protected]