Like me, do you experience God’ grace as merely transactional? Please let me explain.
Like me, many Christians I know experience God’s grace the way we’d experience receiving something good from a starched-shirt executive sitting with perfect posture behind a massive desk. In this scenario, God is certainly good. He’s “transactionally good.” But He’s not “emotionally good.” He’s not warm, and He’s not affectionate. In this scenario, we may be glad for the decisions God makes and for the good things He gives to us despite our unworthiness, but we have a hard time being glad in God. We have a hard time enjoying God.
This is the relational dynamic present in a fantastic scene between Neo and The Architect (a God-figure) in the movie The Matrix Reloaded. As you watch, consider how this clip does or does not depict your experience of God and His grace.
So, is this the way you view God and His grace?
If so, I pray that you join me in the radical challenge to actually believe that God and His grace are strongly, positively, and warmly emotive. This idea comes directly from Scripture. It’s embedded in the definition of “grace” (charis) in many Greek dictionaries. I’ve bolded the emotion-rich words in the definition of grace/charis below from one of those dictionaries to help us see this very idea.
(1) as a quality that adds delight or pleasure graciousness, attractiveness, charm (Luke 4.22); (2) as a favorable attitude; (a) active, of what is felt toward another goodwill, favor (Acts 2.47); (b) as a religious technical term for God's attitude toward human beings kindness, grace, favor, helpfulness (John 1.16, 17; Ephesians 2.8).1
Yes, God’s grace is more than just a transaction. It’s action with delight, pleasure, and favor.
The truth is that I find it easier to think of God’s grace mainly (or only) in transactional terms. Sure, God may pardon me in Christ, but He doesn’t really do it with joy or pleasure. Sure, God provides for me, but He’s not all that thrilled about it. Sure, God has a plan for me, but He’s not really invested in it from the heart. Sure, God does all kinds of benevolent, amazing, wonderful, and good things for me, but that doesn’t mean He’s happy about any of it, or about me.
Oh dear friends, it’s time for us to embrace a bigger (and more biblical) concept of God’s grace! It’s time to bring God out from behind His massive desk. It’s time to see Him leaping across that desk toward us with the passionate longing and delight of the Father for the repentant prodigal, ready to smother us with kisses and bless us with full restoration and a party (Luke 15:11-32).
Here are some ideas and questions to help us grapple with the idea that God’s grace in Christ to repentant sinners is both transactional AND richly emotive. Please comment on this blog with your own ideas and thoughts, too. Thanks.
1 Friberg Greek Lexicon, Bibleworks Version 5.0, Bibleworks LLC, Norfolk, Virginia.