The verse we looked at yesterday starts with the word “for” or “because”.
The message of verses 1-2 is about living as good citizens and good neighbours. Then verse 3 is saying effectively, “because we ourselves were once like the world.”
Often as Christians, we forget what we were once like and we can be very judgemental towards non-Christians; Paul is saying, don’t forget what you were like. You might get annoyed with your non-Christian neighbour, or your kids, or your boss, or even Boris Johnson but remember that you were an unbeliever once. So treat them with love and respect. Be patient with them. We cannot expect them to behave like believers when they are not.
This is important. Some of you are longing for children or other family members to come to Christ and you get so frustrated and think, “why can’t they stop doing this?” The reason is that they are not yet believers. We can end up putting pressure on them to change their behaviour when what they really need is a change of heart.
This verse is also good news as it is fuel for prayer. God saved you. That means He can save them. Sometimes I think it is so hard for the Lord to save that person, but He saved me. He saved me when I was like them. He saved me when I was foolish and disobedient and led astray. He hasn’t changed, so He can save them, too.
Calvin summarises the application of this passage far better than I, so I will leave you with his words:
In the words of Paul, there are two things that need to be understood. The first is, that they who have now been enlightened by the Lord, being humbled by the remembrance of their former ignorance, should not exalt themselves proudly over others, or treat them with greater harshness and severity than that which, they think, ought to have been exercised towards themselves, when they were what those now are. The second is, that they should consider, from what has taken place in their own persons, that they who to-day are strangers may to-morrow be received into the Church, and, having been led to amendment of their sinful practices, may become partakers of the gifts of God, of which they are now destitute. There is a bright mirror of both in believers, who “at one time were darkness, and afterwards began to be light in the Lord.” (Eph. 5:8.) The knowledge of their former condition should therefore dispose them to (συμπάθειαν) fellow-feeling. On the other hand, the grace of God, which they now enjoy, is a proof that others may be brought to salvation.John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 326–327, emphasis mine.
So, let’s be much in prayer (and pray for our own patience). May the Lord bless your intercession today.