Balancing forgiveness with accountability is challenging for many Christians. The same goes for getting our needs met by others. Most of us feel we need to emulate the stories of saints and martyr ourselves without asking anything in exchange for our time, services, and hard work.
But healthy and explicit transactions are part and parcel of the Christian life. You cannot function as a Christian without understanding the transactional nature of love.
A Covenantal Perspective
The human relationship with God is an openly transactional one. The Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of each individual human to grant freedom from the debts accrued by sin. In order to accept this forgiveness and have one’s debt paid, submission to the loving will of God is required in the form of obedience to the spirit of the Ten Commandments.
This covenant is an open and obvious transaction stated again and again throughout the course of the Bible and should be no shock to anyone.
However, God’s love does not end the moment a human transgresses the agreement and fails to uphold one of the Commandments. Mercy has been rejected by the individual in favor of a selfish act of will, so the person has placed themselves outside of the grace of God. Note that God does not withdraw grace, but because the person has made their sinful choice they are now choosing to live outside of the arranged relationship.
But love does not cease, as God maintains enduring faithfulness. God maintains His love and extends grace with a clear pathway back into the ruptured bond. In order to return to the arrangement, the person apologizes with a confession and dedicates themselves again to upholding the arrangement. The relationship then continues in love and good faith.
What do covenantal transactions look like in action?
The Bible makes it clear that humans are to God as a wife is to a husband. Each of us, then, could be compared to a negligent wife who continually disappoints her husband.
Picture it as a sitcom: The faithful husband arrives home each day to find his wife in some new transgression. She’s spent all the rent money on a thousand windchimes and they can’t even hear each other over the loud racket. She got drunk in the middle of the day and passed out without greeting him or making his dinner. She got distracted by a movie on TV and burned the pot roast. It makes for a great comedy, but a sad reality. Each of us continually fails to uphold the transactional relationship we hold with God, called a covenant.
And yet the love endures. The husband forgives his wife each time as she expresses genuine contrition. She really intends to be a better wife tomorrow, and he knows how fervently she desires to fulfill his needs. His forgiveness is equally genuine. The marriage continues.
God holds us accountable. He also presents clear pathways back into close intimacy with Him. There is no shame in you doing the same. In fact, you must do the same to those around you in order to extend the same love and grace you have been shown.
Do not be afraid to be clear with your expectations, boundaries, and needs.
If you’re looking for additional resources on transactional relationships, check out my whole series dedicated to Transactional Relationships right here.