There is this idea that Jesus’ death bought something: that he was a unique currency, only ever redeemable once.
There is a part of me that recently wanted to throw this idea away far away from me. And in some ways, I had good reasons. There are some questionable ethical things happening, if this is how it worked. It seemed rather suspicious than American, Evangelical Christianity would become rather obsessed with a financial-economic view of what Jesus was doing.
Today, I am holding this idea outward, with an open hand. Perhaps it will stay. Perhaps not. I see some language in the bible that suggests it. I see some value at it. I can be a bit fickle. Perhaps I will be ready to throw it away, again, tomorrow.
But the thing that got me thinking about all this was a podcast I was listening to this morning. Michael Gungor, one of my heroes, started talking about transactional relationships with God. I assumed what he said next was going to relate to Jesus’ death.
But he went a whole different direction. He was talking about the deals we make with God. ‘God please do this for me.’ ‘God, if you do x, I will do y’, ‘God I need…’ Gungor goes on to suggest that the alternative foundation for connecting with God is embodied in Mother Theresa’s often-quoted description of her prayer life: she states that she listens to God listening to her. (Forgive the vast oversimplification of Mother Theresa’s words; it is worth looking up.)
I am thinking that maybe there is a connection between seeing Jesus’ death as transactional and seeing our relationship with him as transactional. On a broader level, I know that some of my own relationships with other people have been ones where we abided in a love for each other, like Mother Theresa. Others have been built around mutual exchanges and need.
Most, of course, are somewhere between these two extremes. But the older I get, the more sure I am: I would rather engage in loving than exchanging stuff.