Christian Living

Our Relationship with God is Not Transactional

Regardless of our behavior, God’s love for us is unconditional

When we do something nice for someone, we often expect something nice in return. And when they do something kind for us, we desire to reciprocate. It’s human nature. And if someone is mean to us, our first impulse is to respond to them likewise.

We can think of this as “equivalent retaliation,” more commonly known as tit-for-tat. In legal terms this concept of reciprocity goes by quid pro quo or “a favor for a favor.”

We apply this notion to our interactions with others and to our interactions with God. When we do good, we expect him to return the favor and do good things for us. We may even think he owes us for the way we worship him, study his word, or help others.

Surely our acts of righteousness will garner his attention and produce a positive response from him.

However, when we mess up—which I too often do—our expectations of God go away. We don’t think he owes us anything. In fact, we know we deserve punishment.

Yet both these perspectives reveal that we think our relationship with God is transactional. That when we do good for him, we deserve good from him. And when we do bad things, he will ignore us or punish us. This, however, is a human mindset, not God’s character.

The truth is that there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any more. And there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any less. God’s deep love for us is unshakable. He loves us regardless of what we do, be it good or bad.

We call this undeserved love from God grace (getting good things we don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve). God is not a tit-for-tat supernatural being. He’s not a quid pro quo type of god.

The God of the Bible is perfect, and he loves us perfectly. Our relationship with him is not transactional; his love is unconditional. Praise God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

2 replies on “Our Relationship with God is Not Transactional”

I am so grateful that I came across your website, as you correctly put “God’s love is unconditional, not transactional”. I did come across another person who believed that God’s love is transactional and it just didn’t sit well with me whilst I read his page, because it felt to me like he didn’t understand the true meaning of a “transactional relationship” and what it means to have a relationship with God either. I believe that the transactional relationships are built for having professional business relationships, however for more intimate relationships such as friendship and romantic relationships, those relationships cannot be build on transaction alone as love is required as a base to sustain that relationship during the rocky times.

As the bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. I want to emphasise the “keeps no record of wrongs” because that is what a transactional relationship will do and go “tit for tat” as you mentioned. Hence why transactional relationships tend to not last as long as the relationships based on love and why God’s relationship is ever lasting.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts of a transactional relationship, it was a blessing to read.

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