Eternal Life – Part 2: Transaction or Relationship?

Jan 28, 2017 by opentableconference in  Blog Posts
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Why do you suppose we believe that eternal life is a simple transaction? Maybe we say we don’t believe this, but a large segment of Christianity sure has communicated this in explicit transactional terms…

God offers the gift of eternal life. Since He paid a most costly price for our sins with the death of his Son, this gift is free for us. I accept the gift and I’m in, I get to ride the glory train.

Sounds like a transaction to me…

It seems in this version, “eternal life” is a commodity. In the past, I treated it like it could be bought and sold. Though God wasn’t selling it but was instead giving it for free doesn’t change the framework of transaction. I am aware that for many years I taught that salvation was a thing to be possessed. You either had it or you didn’t depending on whether you had accepted God’s gift.

There is a glaring problem with this thinking; transactions don’t require relationship.

In my view, someone could theoretically take the gift and yet dislike or even walk away from the God who gave it to them. Interesting. I can get eternal life but continue to live independently of the Source of Life?  Is that even possible? How then would this change us from Adam? How does this reconcile a fallen race? How is this salvation?

Another problem with transactions is they are static. In contrast, relationships are dynamic. Therefore, the movement of the relationship, in whatever direction, is a process. My friend would say an incremental process. To think of eternal life as a transaction is to doom the relationship to never growing or developing as it should because the only process is in the agreement itself. Once the transaction is complete the process is over.

Most people I’ve asked, including myself, say that the transaction is not the relationship, it’s only what begins the relationship.

Really? Have you ever begun a relationship in this way that led to intimacy with anyone? I have filled out applications for employment that resemble this. I have entered into contracts that were, in fact, transactions. But I’ve never begun a relationship like this. If this could happen, it would seem at the very least, to be the exception to the rule.

Besides, if eternal life is just a transaction, what does this say about God? That he doesn’t really care about relationship? Instead, what he really cares about is whether the terms of the transaction are met? And these terms… Are they not usually presented in quotas of legal righteousness and moral holiness described in laws and rules?

So then, what is a relationship with God? Is it the simply defined by the terms of the transaction, whatever they may be? Or is it something different, something better?

I have discovered that the relationship God wants is better. He wants us to participate with them in their relationship, the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Related Posts: 

Part 1: What is Eternal Life

Part 3: Is it Found in a “Who” or a “What”?

John MacMurray

Founder of Open Table Conferences

"God is relationship. There is something deeper in his essence as Father, Son, and Spirit than just doing the morally right thing all the time. They are completely, head over heels, in love with each other. And it is out of that relationship, from which everything flows, we find the reason for his creating of you and me. God loves in freedom because that is the way he is. There is no other way of being for him."

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