Let’s say you’re taking a class in conversational Spanish. You’ve been in class for a few months and have learned many fine phrases like “Me llamo Stephanie,” and “Dondé esta el baño?” Very useful. But you know you’re not exactly at the point where you can have a conversation. You look around your classroom and see that not everyone in the room is at the same level. Some have absorbed more than others and will be further along in their ability to actually speak the language to a native Spanish speaker. But all of them can converse a bit, anyway. But you don’t go out and try to talk like a native speaker.
Now, let’s say, you’ve got several years of conversational Spanish under your belt, you feel confident in your fluency, so you go to a local coffee shop and try to order from the waitress in Spanish using your hard-earned prowess. Unless she, too, knows Spanish, the waitress is going to give you a blank stare. And then you hear everyone else in the room, and none of them are speaking Spanish. Do you then wonder what’s wrong with everyone? Why aren’t they speaking Spanish? You’re speaking Spanish, and pretty darn well, thank you very much! Why isn’t everyone speaking Spanish?
This is how I feel I react sometimes when I expect people who don’t know Jesus to act like people who do. I expect that they will get along well with each other. I expect that they will handle conflict in a godly way. I expect that they will react to adversity with grace and peace. I expect that movies and music and TV shows will be tasteful and clean.
But expecting those kinds of things from people who don’t know Jesus is like expecting those who have never taken Spanish to speak it fluently. You can’t know what you haven’t learned. You can’t act like Jesus if you don’t know who He is. This should not shock me. Even I who know Him fail to act like Him many times.
Do I like it that my son’s friends use vulgar language? No. But should I expect anything different from them if they don’t know the One who makes them clean?
Do I like it that there’s so much drama in places where humans have to work together? No. But should I be shocked that those who don’t know the Prince of Peace act in a confrontational manner?
If the people to whom I want to speak Spanish don’t know the language, maybe I should be teaching them or bringing them with me to class. Then we can have conversations together and even teach each other new words as maybe they learn faster than I do.
If the people I find myself in contact with don’t know Jesus, maybe I should be telling them about Him. If I’m not willing to do that, I certainly should stop being shocked that they act the way they do.
You can’t know what you haven’t learned. You can’t act like Someone you’ve never even met.