Recently, I have become aware of the unhealthy relationship I have with people pleasing and the attempts to live up to the expectations of others. In this journey, I’ve also realized that one of the motivations for this is the transactional, or bargaining, nature of these kind of relationships.
In short, I’m nice to you which means you will be nice to me.
It’s something that was taught, both implied and outright, in schools and churches when I was a child. Not just in relationships, but in every aspect of my life. If I follow the rules, I get good things. If I study, I will get good grades (meaning perfect A+’s).
It has even seeped into my relationship with God. If I read my Bible and pray every day, then I will get all the good blessings in life. And if I am struggling, it means that I’m doing something wrong. But the Bible says something different.
Jesus’s followers in John 9:1 saw a blind man and asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was blind from birth?” Jesus responded that the purpose of the blindness was to glorify God, then he healed the man, further proving God’s divine power in him.
Job was a righteous man who followed all of the rules, so much that God even bragged on him. But he still lost everything, even his health. His friends accused him of sinning some big sin. He turned to God for answers, and God basically told him that he wouldn’t understand the entire picture, but that it was much bigger than Job could imagine. And Job responded with faith.
And while there are instances in the Bible where God punishes someone for their sin (ie, David and Bathsheba losing their son or the Israelites going into exile), the bigger picture doesn’t change. David even says that though he is separated from his son for now, he will see him again someday. Because the picture is bigger than he could ever have imagined.
God is operating on a bigger playing field than a series of checks and balances. Because the reality is that we will never measure up on our own. That is why Christ came to this earth, to wipe away the debits and credits in our life so that we can really focus on what is the most important thing – our relationship with God. Trusting him and keeping that faith through our love for others.
And loving others not in a transactional way but loving them because God loves us. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Not because they were nice to us, or they think like us, or they act like us, because that’s not the way Jesus loved. He loved the broken, the angry, the selfish, the sinful, the ones who carry their pain in their hearts and bodies and minds, the ones who pour pain into others. That is what he calls us to do.
We love because he first loved us.John 4:19
I am so grateful for my relationship with God, that it doesn’t depend on my own perfection but is covered in the perfect love of Christ. May I live out that love more and more in my own life and in the lives of those around me by living beyond the expectations of others to the bigger plan God has for my life.