We will continue to explore transactional relationships and how they deeply affect our understanding of the world around us, from everyday interactions to how we structure our churches.
Jesus defined love as a denial of your self – it is not a contract with others. Transactional relationships make no room for love. They are inherently self-centered: these are my expectations and you must meet them. God is often accused of being transactional in His interactions with humans: He demands a certain kind of behavior and punishes man if they fail. This is not quite the case. God disciplines and desires true relationship. There is a difference between discipline and transactional punishment. A loving form of discipline doesn’t try to manipulate, it seeks to teach and guide. God wants us to share in His holiness – this is a condition, not a kind of behavior. In His discipline, God is continuously looking at your heart. He wants your heart to want Him. Though He is concerned with our behavior, grace covers our sin. God does not withhold His love as a form of disapproval in order to manipulate people into a specified behavior.
Discipline is not punishment. It is motivated by love and designed to bring us to a place of safety and blessing. Discipline can be hard and painful, and include rebukes, corrections, course changes, or merely acts of protection that temporarily inconvenience us. If eternal life is knowing God, then every step of obedience, every act of discipline, every occurance of suffering for righteousness brings us closer to knowing Him.
God Himself chose to suffer in righteousness. In redeeming a fallen and rebellious world, it is only logical that those pursuing God would suffer – otherwise we would live in a transactional universe that rewards and punishes according to firm rules. In that case, we don’t need love or grace. When we are transformed into the image of His Son, we are living by God’s design. In doing this, we find our creative purpose. We cannot find ourselves in our possessions, in a pursuit of storing up for ourselves, escaping pain, and seeking comfort. These are merely obstacles and insulators keeping us from God. You will find yourself when you sacrifice everything for strangers, because then you will understand God’s love, and understand why He did that very thing for you.
As victims try to move on from being raised in a transactional environment, they try to fill all the voids left by a confusion of love and approval. It takes a long time to accept that our worth comes from God’s love for us, not from our performance. Transactional relationships are the antithesis of unconditional love. Transactional relationships rob us of grace and love, because we equate our feelings with our condition, and our feelings are informed by our perceived sense of worth. Remember that love is tied to who you are, approval is tied to what you do.
Living in transaction “works” because it allows us to navigate the world while hiding pain. However, when pain changes who we are, we start to live in a self-centered world where everything is viewed through our expectations. This does not make us selfish or wicked, merely hurting. In this state, you will view everyone as abusers because you are constantly facing unmet expectations; you feel that others don’t value you.
People don’t just have transactional relationships with individuals, but with society. A transactional worldview puts you in constant fear of punishment due to failure. It twists you view of justice. God is love, and His understanding of justice and goodness is cosmic. It is His. It is Good. It is what is best for us. Obedience to God is simply living the way you were designed to live. Obedience to man is following rules to fascilitate a convenient relationship that has no costs.
Unfortunately, the American church has been trained into perceiving the world from a transactional worldview. We see people in calamity and assume hidden sin or bad decisions. This is due to our conforming to American spiritualism that puts great value on performance and holds up the myth that hard work and honest dealings will cause you to rise in social standing and success. It is also the result of a lack of faith. We fall back on a law that gives us a checks and balances between ourselves and God. The New Covenant has done away with all that. God wants to indwell us with His Spirit, build His Kingdom in our midst. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day and whisper in our ear. We should not need a terrifying mountain and a delegate to go and retrieve stone tablets for us. Our hearts should be soft and ready for Him to imprint His design upon them.
There are many false gospels that teach that God is transactional, that we must behave a certain way and that we will be rewarded with physical blessings; that God is bound to an agreement to transact with us based on behavior and approval. This epidemic of transactional relationship, of the confusion of love and approval, has led to a predominate false gospel in America which preaches, “Come add yourself to this group of people who will engage in certain behavior and get rewarded.” This creates a self-centered ecclesiology – responding to “felt needs”, providing fresh worship, having a full-service club for people to join complete with child care, vacations, parties, concerts, movies, perfomances, branded merchandise, etc. God is not trite. He is not small-minded nor cold-hearted. He wants us to walk with Him so our desire for temporary things will diminish and we will come to know Him.
The modern American church has become a transactional system. We hire pastors to preach and judge their performance. If he fails, he is replaced. It gives positions based on tithing – those that don’t tithe aren’t allowed to become elders, etc. The tithe as a whole is a transactional system that is not a New Testament mandate. These things turn the church into a business. If the church is supposed to be a manifestation of God’s love here on earth, it cannot do that if it functions in transaction, because transactional relationships and love are mutually exclusive. God’s church functions on spiritual gifts given by God, not by job description and salaries. There is no pressure to perform for anyone.
An incomplete gospel, based on a transactional church system, gives us a religion that does not bring us to God. Accomplishing a set of tasks does not “fulfill our end of the bargain” to receive blessing, communion, or salvation. Unfortunately, this gospel is the easiest one to communicate, so much so that it will be passively communicated even if never preached, even if a true gospel is spoken, because this transactional gospel will have so much visible evidence.
This manmade church structure is a fragile system that must defend itself. It creates a false sense of unity, which is either uniformity, or a sharing of activity and meeting times. Look at the difference between nurturing a tree and training a tree to a form If you nurture a tree, you will plant it in good soil, water it, fertilize it, prune it, and give it the space it needs to become the tree it was designed to be. If you are training a tree to a form, then you are telling it what to become, and strapping it to a rigid pattern so that it only grows where you want it to. God’s design of unconditional love allows the created diversity of His people to flourish. He doesn’t want us to act, look, and talk the same. He wants us to be what He created, and He is endlessly creative.
The Oh Hellos – The Valley http://theohhellos.com/
Leeland – Tears of the Saints http://leelandonline.com/
This episode originally broadcast live on August 21, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO
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