We live in a transaction based culture. If I start thinking of all the transactions I’ve completed already today it will make my head spin. Some transactions make sense. I went to the grocery store and selected some food and then paid the checker for them. The challenge for those of us who follow Jesus is that He is much more interested in transformation than transactions. We are tempted to practice our walk with Jesus as a series of transactions, because it is much easier to measure progress. I read 100 verses of scripture, completed my journal, and prayed for 15 minutes today. In other words, I had my quiet time. I could even get competitive and compare my quiet time transactions with yours. This is the way the Pharisees lived their lives and Jesus continually rebuked them.
Think about this. I spent most of my life working in manufacturing. For much of my career I developed and maintained software for performing transactions on the computer that would tell everyone where parts were and how much they were worth. The more transactions that were performed the better the information that resulted. However, if the people working on the shop floor performed millions of transactions and there was no transformation in the raw material they were working with the company would have nothing to sell. Transactions without transformation is useless in the world of manufacturing. It is also worthless or worse in the realm of relationships.
Here’s a simple way to think about a transaction based faith. The more religious activities (transactions) I complete the more God will give me what I want. We watched a short video on Sunday at life group and the speaker had a checklist for us to review if God wasn’t answering our prayers the way we wanted. I’m confident he didn’t intend for it to come across as a series of transactions, but it was difficult to look beyond that impression. Do these six things and God will answer your prayer and He’ll answer it with a yes. We know that’s not true, but we can’t seem to shake our desire for it to be true.
I recently completed a new book on neighboring called the neighboring church. The book examines what it takes to develop a church that is actively practicing the second half of the great commandment: “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. The challenge for church leadership is turning neighboring into a program with a prescribed checklist is the exact opposite of what Jesus is calling for. In this case our neighbors become projects and neither we nor our neighbors are transformed. I think the authors do a great job of describing what this looks like. It is unfortunate that we need books to help us understand this. There was a time in our U.S. culture when everyone understood what a good neighbor looked like.
The essence of good neighboring is shifting from a transaction based me focus to a transformation oriented other focus. I called our neighbor last week to look through our drawers to see if we had a specific prescription. There was no hesitation when I made the request. I’m quite certain there was no asking the question, “What can I get them to do for me now?” Instead, because they care about us, they immediately went and looked, and went again when I discovered that I had given them poor instructions on where to find it. Our relationship grew a little that day.
God is looking for us to be transformed. One of the most powerful ways that happens is through loving our neighbors. When I give up control and start simply loving God is able to work in me.