Pray For, Strive For, Be, and Become
The End of the Transactional World
A Four Part Series
Prelude—Four Examples of the Target—May 5, 2021
Part 1: The End of Transactional Religion—May 12, 2021
Part 2: The End of Transactional Relationships—May 19, 2021
Part 3: The End of Transactional Economics—May 26, 2021
I have divided this series of columns on “The End of the Transactional World” into the three parts:
- Transactional Religion
- Transactional Relationships
- Transactional Economics
However, they are not distinct topics. Despite our attempts to compartmentalize our lives–keeping our religious beliefs, for example, out of our business decisions–we remain whole human beings. Once we have decided that we are to love our neighbors as God loves us, no one is excluded at any time in any way from that commitment. God loves us. God does not make deals with us. God does not treat us as objects that can be played with, traded or discarded. We learn, as Christ followers, never to treat others as objects to be manipulated for our benefit.
Let’s dive into the subject of putting an end to transactional relationships by opening the scriptures to a desperate situation. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had every right to expect his closest friends to provide him with a modicum of support; a miniscule exchange of service would seem to be due to the One about to give His everything for them:
Gethsemane (Matthew 26)
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
I had a seminary professor, Jim Ashbrook, who wrote, “In Human Presence, Hope.” How many times have you been that hope to another person? How many times has someone been that hope to you, the human presence that you held on to during a terrifying time, without which you would have succumbed to despair? Take a second. Write a list of the people who have been there for you and another list of those you held on to. Feel your grip on them. Feel their grip on you. Feel again the gratitude. Remember the hope.
I’m serious here. Take a minute to remember. Then go back to the garden of Gethsemane and feel the anguish of One who pleads three times with his friends to just keep their eyes open. They cannot. They can’t, period. End of story. They are dis-abled. They cannot pay even the price of a few seconds of presence in exchange for the gift of eternal life, or however you want to describe the gift Jesus was giving them. Oh my God! Oh my God! How critical it is that the relationship of Jesus with His most chosen ones have nothing in common with a transaction—because they cannot pay a farthing, a feather, a fine, a frail thought or a fragment of affection. Nothing. Good God! Are they ever losers!
Thank God that our relationship with God has nothing to do with a transaction!
OK, now that we have felt the fundamental foolishness of life that is dependent on transactional relationships, let’s come back to earth and get real. Transactional relationships work, to a point. We will not entirely escape them until the Kingdom comes on Earth as it is in Heaven. Transactional relationships are, most of the time, the everyday stuff of our lives.
- I pay the ice cream truck guy $3 and he hands me an ice cream cone.
- I send a check for $281 to the electric company and they do not turn off my electric power; and when the line comes down in a storm they arrive in the blizzard to fix it. I never even see their faces.
- I stand face to face with my bride during the wedding service and we exchange, “I do’s.” But what if I don’t or can’t?
- I love my child and my child loves me back. But not always.
- I pay my taxes and the government lets me vote. What if they won’t count my vote? Transactional relationships often provoke trouble.
- My neighbor loans me his truck. I give him some firewood. Did I give the wood from spontaneous gratitude or so he will loan me the truck again?
- My wife cleans the bathroom, I mow the lawn, she cleans the kitchen, I cook dinner, she says yes to sex and I give her a mother’s day gift. But what if one us decides they have gotten the shorter stick?
- You work a day for me in the hot sun picking cotton and I pay you slave wages, or only gruel fit for a slave. And, tonight I do not kill you. You get to wake up to another day of misery.
Transactions that are grossly unfair become the stuff of divorces, wars and revolutions. Transactional relationships lead towards death.
Though I cannot imagine how in the course of my lifetime I could ever completely abandon transactional relationships, I believe there is a better way to live and I am trying to learn to live in that direction. And, the best way I know how to describe non-transactional relationships as they are experienced in my life is to tell you a story. One of thousands.