Transactional vs. Merciful

Transactional vs. Merciful

Transactional vs. Merciful                                        Luke 6:27-38

A transactional relationship is one where both parties are in it for themselves.  The people involved do things for each other with the expectation that their actions will be reciprocated.  In other words, if you do this for me then I will do that for you.  We make transactions all the time.  They are a natural way in which we operate in the world, especially when it comes to business matters.  But there are other relationships that we have that are not transactional. Other relationships are more unconditional. I do not help to make my children’s school lunch in the morning because I expect them to make me dinner in the evening.  I do it because I love them and I want them to be healthy.

Sometimes people can come to see their relationship with God as transactional.  There is the expectation that if they do what they think is “good” then God should reward them.  Likewise, when things go wrong, they think they must have done something to anger God or not held up their side of the bargain so that is why God is punishing them.

If we only read a few verses from this Sunday’s passage from Luke, I could see how some people might think this.  In Luke 6:38 Jesus says, “…give, and it will be given to you…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  Sounds fairly transactional, doesn’t it?  But to say our relationship with God is a transaction is almost to say that we are on the same level as God—like we have something God needs and we will hold it back until God gives us what we want.  This seems a little presumptuous.

Does God withhold blessings until we come up with the right offering, or the right behavior or the right belief?  Jesus also says in Luke chapter six that we are to, “… love our enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…be merciful as your Father is merciful.”    If God is merciful does that mean that God doesn’t operate on a transactional basis?  Is Jesus challenging us to also be less transactional and to operate more out of unconditional love and mercy?  When Jesus says that we will receive a measure back from what we give,  is he talking less about equal payback or profit and more about deeper connections with God and other people?

-Pastor Erik Goehner