Christians aren’t perfect. We fall anew daily. We specifically make two mistakes without even realizing it sometimes. Both of these mistakes can have an adverse effect upon others.
First, we make the mistake of expecting unbelievers to act like Christians. We become annoyed at the language non-Christians use, the habits they practice, the self-centeredness behind their lives, and their lack of moral standards. Because of their lost condition, they are doing the things unbelievers are expected to do. I often have to remind Christians, “That is the way unbelievers are supposed to act. After all, they are unbelievers!”
Ephesians 2:1-3 vividly describes their condition: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Simply put, the unbeliever is a captive of Satan, doing whatever Satan has influenced. Unlike the believer who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the unsaved lack the ability and the power to reject sin and surrender to righteousness.
When we see an unbeliever through the lens of the spiritual realm, we should have compassion on them. They are in desperate need of the Lord. When we are irritated by their behavior, we must be careful that we are angry at the sin, not the sinner.
Second, we make the mistake of expecting a new believer to be in one month what it took us five years to achieve. In my observation, this is even more prevalent than the first mistake.
Spiritual growth takes time as God patiently and persistently takes out of our lives what should not be there and puts in our lives what should be there. If you specialize in self-examination instead of cross examination, please humbly remember the growth that was needed to reach your own maturity. It takes time, so extend the same patience, understanding, and forbearance to a new believer that God extended to you.
May it be said of us what Paul said to the new Christians of Thessalonica. I Thessalonians 2:11 reads, “As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children.” A father doesn’t expect a child to be where he as their father is after decades of living and learning. He has to take the child a step at a time—the same thing we have to do with a new believer. When a believer complains to me about where a new convert is spiritually, I often question him, “May I ask you? How long did it take you to get there?”
Let’s be sensitive to these two mistakes we often make. Should we not catch ourselves, the first mistake could damage our witness to unbelievers, and the second mistake could damage the assistance we are to new Christians.