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
The Introduction: Transactional Religion is nothing but bad news. It is, I think, believe and experience on a daily basis, the opposite of the Good News that, in Christ Jesus, are found the way and the truth and the light for the whole magnificent, yet suffering, creation. The bad news, transactional religion always teaches, is that in some way you and I must be “sufficient” (good enough, right enough, obedient enough, successful enough, lucky enough, or even specifically chosen from amidst an endless throng of un-chosen losers) in order to know, to experience, Just Love. The love of a transactional god is always conditional. Just Love (God Is Just Love) is unconditional. Moms and dads all over the world seek to be such love to their children. We do not always succeed; yet, if all we have known is conditional love, we do not have a chance to be this love for others. Then those beautiful children, like we ourselves, will suffer the terrible fate of the inadequate and the un-chosen.
(If you need to reflect more about that paragraph, I expand on this message throughout my book, “God Is Just Love.” I refer you especially to page 98, second paragraph, through page102, first paragraph. If you don’t have the book, I will add that text at the end of this article.)
The Warning: Many readers, initially resonating with that introduction, will find themselves confused, challenged or contrary once they find out what I mean by “Transactional Religion is nothing but bad news.” Most of what is widely accepted as orthodox Christian belief concerning atonement—how Jesus saves—is grounded firmly in transactional religion. The following are all tenants of transactional religion:
The ancient, and all too common, belief that the gods required the sacrifice of a young virgin girl in order to deliver an abundant harvest. A transaction. “Hey god, Let’s make a deal!”
The drought, or the pandemic, was caused by an immoral minority living in our midst. The gods hate them. We will drive them out into the from our midst. Then it will rain, or sickness will pass…or whatever. A transaction. “I will do anything, God, if you will just…whatever…?
God, known by the name of A___, Y___, B___ or any other name, is a jealous God and demands obedience to many unquestionable rules. Transgressors are punished now, later or forever. A transaction.
Just the right sacrifice, just the right opinion or creed, just the right behavior will appease God and will facilitate escape from punishment now, later or forever. A transaction.
Wrong behavior or patterns of behavior compel God to turn you over to satan and his minions for disposal. Since there is no way for anyone to redeem themselves from such horrors, a righteous redeemer must pay the price, to the devil, for our ransom.
(By the way, for 700 years of Christian Church history, approximately 300-1,000 AD, the “ransom paid to satan” theory dominated the western church. Then it was replaced in the Roman church by a variety of accepted theories. But with the Protestant Reformation, the following theory became preeminent, or even exclusive.)
A blood sacrifice, such as a lamb slaughtered on the altar, or a savior nailed to a cross, pays the price of redemption to a jealous, angry or offended God. Some aspect of God’s character must be appeased, or we are all doomed.
(The ransom must be paid to God, not the devil. Love remains conditional. Maybe that is progress? But I don’t think so.)
Everywhere a young child turns, at home, at church, at school, on the athletic field, in the culture, a fragile spirit learns that love is conditional on right conduct, right ritual, right ideas, right achievements or right something else. That child, those children, so many of us, spend the rest of their lives searching for love in all the wrong places.
(Only an encounter with Just Love, can heal our damaged souls.)
The prescription for all of this transactional religious poison? The antidote?
The Truth: You can’t be redeemed by the paying of a ransom, or a papal indulgence. It’s free. You can’t find it by attending the right church. It is everywhere. You can’t earn it with good behavior or stunning exploits. You just have to know, see, feel, accept, surrender to Reality, Just Love—The Ultimate Truth of The Way Things Are; Just Love. Just Love is like the air we breath or the water fish swim in.
How do I know this is true? In so many ways!
- Forty years of pastoral ministry and hundreds of people, each with a unique, yet similar, story of unfulfilled longing for Just Love. For example, there is the story of Phil; a story that became the final chapter of my first book, The Extraordinary Ordinary Uplifts Us Halfway to Heaven. That story painfully illustrates the life-long suffering of everyone who has never know Just Love. It also illuminates the mission of my life. As the prayer of Jesus in John 17 is answered in my life, as I become one with God as Jesus is One with God, I can accompany others as they seek to find and be this Oneness.
- My personal spiritual journey that accelerated to “fast forward” in 1981 and transformed my image and experience of “A God of Absence and Abandonment,” to “A God of Just Love.”
- A life-long love affair with Jesus and the Bible that now has me daily reading the gospels with the hope and the prayer, and now the reality, that I will meet Jesus again, as if for the first time. The Christ is the All in All; for everywhere, everyone, every time, always throughout the whole creation.
- A deep dive over the past five years into many books that are guiding Christians all over the world towards fulfilling their longing to meet Jesus again, as if for the first time.
(Investing myself in a book, reading it, ingesting it, allowing it to change me and consulting other believers can be a titanic commitment that must be motivated by something hugely consequential.What has compelled me, over the past five years, to ingest the knowledge and insight and faith of other believers in Jesus by reading their books? Foremost, it has been my responsibility–see Ephesians 4:15-16, 1 Timothy 1:6-7, 2 Timothy 4:3-5, Hebrews 13:17—as a teacher. Knowing and telling the truth of Jesus is Job 1. So, I have invested myself continually in the gospels and in writings like these: No Irrelevant Jesus, Lofink; The Universal Christ, Rohr; The Day the Revolution Began, Wright; Jesus Today, Nolan; The Secret Message of Jesus, McLaren; Wisdom Jesus, Bourgeault; Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Borg; Still Christian, Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism, Gushee; The Four Vision Quests of Jesus, Charleston…)
- The testimony of the Christian mystics down through the centuries, most notably, Julian of Norwich:
“God Is Never Angry…our Lord showed me how intimately he loves us. I saw that he is everything that is good and supports us. He clothes us in his love, envelops us and embraces us. He wraps us round in his tender love and he will never abandon us. As I understand it, he is everything that is good. He also showed me a tiny thing in the palm of my hand, the size of a hazelnut. I looked at this with the eye of my soul and thought: “What is this?” And this is the answer.
‘ It is all that is made.’ I was astonished that it managed to survive; it was so small that I thought that it might disintegrate. And in my mind I heard this answer:
‘It lives on and will live on forever because God loves it.’” (For a couple of years, I have been working on a children’s story, “What’s Inside an Apple Seed?” The answer? Just Love.)
- The convergence of truth as know by spirituality and science. See especially pages 22-39 of God Is Just Love. There are many excellent books on this topic. Some are recommended in the bibliography of my book. For anyone who grew up inside mainline Christian liberalism, which, in my opinion, sold its soul in the mid-20th century to a materialistic and mechanistic world view, the mystery revealed by modern science may help to open your eyes to a spiritual universe, as it did mine.
Bottom line? The evidence is overwhelming. God Is Just Love. Period. No transactions are involved. Just open your eyes, ears, heart and spirit…