Nothing in return

John 1:10-18
I’ve been contemplating something I heard not too long ago.

Granted, it was a sound bite. Basing judgments on short clips can be careless. But what I heard and read fits a larger pattern we’ve talked a lot about.

I won’t mention who was speaking. If it’s that important to you, use Google. In this moment, who said what doesn’t matter all that much. It’s what was said we should reflect on. As much as I cringed when I first heard this statement I was grateful someone was finally honest.

Speaking to a crowd of people who profess a faith in Jesus, this was said: “We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference–I understand the mentality–but it’s gotten us nothing.”

Now, this way of thinking is not new. I imagine many people have scoffed at the ways of Jesus. People mocked his power as he hung on the cross. They told him to save himself. After all, if you have power, shouldn’t you be using it for yourself? Or could the people not sense how he was using his power?

We misunderstood the nature of God’s power and wisdom then. It’s quite apparent we still don’t always grasp what it means to walk in the way of the Christ today.

It’s hard for us to not think in transactional terms. We’ve had more practice being consumers than disciples. If we give something, we tend to expect something in return. If we do something, shouldn’t acknowledgment follow? When it comes to this, chances are, many of us will think more of ourselves than is true. We might say that we don’t need any recognition or expect any form of appreciation. But think on more of your past experiences and see if that fully holds up.

My revelation came at the doorway. I’m a door holder; I don’t know when that happened, but I can’t help it. It used to bother me that a whole line of people could walk through and not say a word to me. People don’t even make eye contact. I know I’m not invisible or hard to miss.

What was my problem? I expected a gesture of gratitude in return. A nod or a simple “Thank you.” Now, that’s a small example. But it can help us think about what we expect from God.

In the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25, those who served weren’t looking for anything in return. They just did what needed to be done. They spent their own money. They shared their own resources. They used the time God gave them to help someone else. It wasn’t until later they discovered that what they did mattered to the king. Likewise, our faith in God has to go beyond mere transaction. God’s economy works differently.

If following the way of Jesus doesn’t get you what you want, what does that say about your desires?

Now, there is a line, of course. God hears our cries for help and deliverance. But if do with the expectation that something we want is supposed to follow, we’re using God. That’s taking the name of the Lord in vain.

And this is part of the difficulty we discover in our discipleship. Jesus said he is the way, the truth and the life. We say we believe him. Well, how much? Enough to follow his way even if things don’t work out your way? If all you “got” from being a disciple of Jesus was eternal life, would you be satisfied? Is knowing his grace and truth enough?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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