I’ve noticed a trend, but I don’t think this is a recent trend. Christians are requiring of others what can only be given themselves.
I know that sounds confusing, but let me try to explain with an example. Paul writes to the Philippians to consider others as more important than themselves. This type of consideration, though, can only be given; it cannot be taken. However, today, many expect or require consideration from others. They do not begin by consdering others as more important; they begin by expecting or requiring others to consider them more important.
This is a huge distinction, but one that we must understand in order to live as followers of Jesus Christ. Consider for instance the example we have in the short letter that Paul wrote to Philemon. Paul wanted Philemon to release his slave Onesimus. But, Paul knew that forgiveness and freedom was something that Philemon had to give, not something that even Paul could demand.
We often look look at Philemon with confusion. Why didn’t Paul just command Philemon to release his slave? Paul even said that he had the right to command that, but Paul refused. Why? Because Paul understood something that we struggle with: you cannot require what can only be given.
This applies in many areas of our life and our walk with Christ. Consider for example the familiar (and at times unpopular) passage from Ephesians 5 where wives are told to submit to their husbands. However, husbands are never told to force their wives to submit or to require submission of their wives. Submission can only be given (in this case, by the wife).
When we turn the instructions around, we then turn them into something completely different. Now, instead of wives submitting to their husbands, we have husbands commanding their wives to submit, which becomes subservience instead of submission. Submission can only be given.
Of course, we see believers turning scriptural instructions around in other areas as well. For example, consider church leaders (i.e. pastors/elders). According to Paul, we are to give double honor to those elders who work hard at teaching and leading. Again, double honor is to be given but not required. But, when pastors/elders require honor (in various forms) from other believers, they have turned honor into something else. This is why Peter warns elders not to serve for monetary gain.
It seems, in these cases and many others, that some who follow Jesus Christ are more concerned with the obedience from other believers than from themselves. And, of course, they’re usually concerned with those areas that would benefit themselves.
For example, we can respect hospitality from others, without giving hospitality ourselves. We can require service from others, without thinking about serving for ourselves. We can expect others to demonstrate love for us, without considering whether or not we are demonstrating love for others. We can require others to disciple us, without making disciples ourselves.
This is a backward view of the life of Christ in us. As the Spirit indwells us, his first desire is to transform our own lives. He does not desire for us to begin examining the lives of others and to require from them what the Spirit requires of us.
Of course, requiring and expecting sanctification and maturity in others is much easier on us than walking in submission to the work of the Spirit in our own lives. But, this is not the way of Christ. Those of us who desire to mature in Christ should start giving of ourselves and stop requiring from others.