Walking Away From A Transactional God
When I was a kid, I heard the same awful sermon virtually every Sunday. I heard it from different preachers in different churches, but it was always the same.
You see, I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. If you don't know what that means, think about being a Christian, but with absolutely 0% joy and 175% more guilt and shame. Oh, and a constant fear that you might burn in hell for all eternity.
When I was an older teenager I found myself wondering about the people sitting in pews around me. Some of them seemed like nice people. They were sincere and kind, and a few of them even seemed to be a bit joyful.
And so I would look at them, and silently ask, "Why are you here?
Why do you sit through the same awful sermon every week about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and all those 'lost' people out there with it?
Why do you sit there and take it while this preacher reduces the Christian faith to a quid pro quo kind of thing where you have to work your butt off to show that you are worthy of God's love and grace?"
What I didn't realize was the reason I was asking those questions and worrying over the answers so intently was that I was afraid the preachers were right, and I was wrong.
What they preached made a twisted kind of sense--based on the way the world seems to work. They preached that God is a transactional god, and the only way to truly receive God's grace is to do enough to earn it.
I finally decided the only way I was ever going to be free from that transactional god was to give up on Christianity altogether. And so I did---for years.
Eventually, I discovered there are other ways to be Christian that are more life-giving and full of meritless grace, and I found my way back to faith.
However, my experiences imbued me with a great deal of empathy for the many people who walk away for the same reasons and never return.
Fr. Richard Rohr had an amazing insight into why we often chose to believe in a transactional kind of grace/merit when God has simply offered us grace without the merit. He writes:
The ego clearly prefers an economy of grace merit, where we can divide the world into winners and losers, to an economy of grace, where merit or worthiness loses all meaning.As Christians, we need to walk away from a Christianity that divides the world into winners and losers based on whether they can earn God's favor. We need to share the Good News that Jesus is for all of us, not just a few of us.
May you find the joy that comes from living into this kind of eternal life. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.