Too often, we, as christians, make high standards and narrow down to a small box the people who 'fit' our standards, or who we're 'comfortable' with. We become preoccupied with how to become more godly, more like Jesus. Wait a second... isn't that a good thing? Of course it is. Becoming like Jesus is the great aim of life. The problem is when we go about it the wrong way.
The most important part of life is relationships. First and foremost, of course, our relationship with God. And our relationships with the people around us are next on the list. God's desire is for us to be set apart for him, for us to ever be drawing nearer to him. But if we create high standards, which is not necessarily wrong, and refuse to stoop, and interact with those lower than ourselves, that's about as un-Godlike as we can get.
God has high standards. Being a completely holy God, he tells us that he cannot abide our sin. But look at where we are! Out of God's abundant and gracious love, he made us just a little lower than the angels, and called us his very own. He wants to be with us, just because he loves us.
So, if we want to be like him...
It is right for us to have high standards - for ourselves. We should be setting high goals in our life, and our walk with God. But we have no right to demand of everyone the same 'height' of godliness that we have, or that we think we have. That would be like the unforgiving servant. With all that God has given us in his grace -- forgiveness and love -- how can we even begin to think that we must require others to meet our standards?!
I think the first thing we must realize if we desire to broaden our horizon is our need for humility. If we think we're better than so-and-so, or if we just sit around wishing and waiting for others to be as 'good' as we believe we are, there's no way we'll be able to stoop to other's levels. When we realize that God loves the believing friend next to us just as much as he loves us, whether he smokes, or drinks, or uses awful language, it shatters the barrier between us. Is God displeased when his children do not obey him fully? Of course. Is he okay with them just staying in their same sinful pattern of life. Of course not. But try leaving the changing up to God for once. It's not really our place to change others.
Of equal or perhaps greater importance, we must be able to love. If we do not truly love the ones around us who have 'lower standards', if we do it either because we feel it's our duty, or to impress others, than we cannot hope to succeed in pleasing God. And I know it's easy to say, "You've just gotta love," and you're probably thinking, Easier said than done. Well, same here. How does one learn to love? And how do you teach someone to love? The best way to teach someone that is to show love to them. So think about the one who's shown you everlasting love. Learn from the best. Remember how much he loves you, and how lovely he is.
Which leads to something else that I think is vital to this lowering of ourselves. Even in all our unworthiness and filthiness before Jesus rescued us, God said of each one of us that we were beautiful to him. Everyone he chose, he said was beautiful. So if they're beautiful to him, shouldn't they be beautiful to us as well? It is so hard sometimes -- it comes more naturally to a blessed few -- to see beauty in someone who seems so much beneath you. But think back to the humility part -- we have to do as God says and count others more important, and beautiful, than ourselves.
Challenge yourself to daily see little things in others around you -- it can be quirks they have, the way they do things, or a physical attribute they have that you find attractive. Tell them that you like it. Confirming to them that they are beautiful will help confirm to yourself that they are beautiful.
Of course there is always room to grow, in others as well as ourselves. I would never deny that those around you need changing, or that their relationship with God and others can and should be strengthened. But before you condemn them for what you think is sinfully wrong, take a look at yourself first. You'll realize you were just as much in need of a Saviour as they were. The fact that they are not as spiritually mature is not reason to stay away from them -- quite the contrary! We should treat them with greater love because of that fact. The best way to aid someone in his walk with Christ is not always to admonish them and to tell them of their sin. Often it simply takes bringing yourself down to their level, and forgetting for a moment your high and lofty standards. Remember that you are just as dirty as he is.
"I want to, I need to, be more like Jesus." Jesus wasn't afraid to kneel on the ground and wash his disciples' feet. Why? Because he loved them. So go wash someone's feet. And do it because you love them.