Transactional models of the at-one-ment have always bothered me. God is not a lender who swoops in to save us from the loan shark only to refinance our salvation with new terms of debt. God is not some kind of micro-venture capitalist who demands everything we have—which is always woefully inadequate, and never good enough, as the story goes—and then, “mercifully,” he kicks in and “makes up the difference” so that we can purchase the proverbial bicycle.
Salvation is not transactional.
Salvation is not about appeasing a distant, retributive and score-keeping God.
It’s about experiencing God’s transformational love inside of us … now.
Jesus tried to teach us this in many different ways and on many different levels. His miracles, for example, were transformational and defied economies of any sort, even the laws of physics. He transformed water into wine. (John 2:1-11.) He transformed loaves and fishes sufficient to feed only a few into a feast that not only fed the masses but resulted in leftovers. (Matthew 14:13-21.) He transformed the sick and the dead. Everything and everyone he touched changed. He did it for free, too.
God doesn’t refinance your spiritual mortgage.
Jesus disrupted the economy of the temple. This should have taught us that salvation is not about transacting business with God. It should have taught us that it’s not about sacrificing “this” in order to earn “that.” He brought unclean people to the temple; people who probably weren’t “worthy” to be there; and there he healed them to show us that salvation is about transformation, not transaction. (Matthew 21:14.) Indeed, he didn’t just figuratively turn the tables on the prevailing concepts of justice and mercy, which posits a God that is hell bent on making someone (either you or Jesus) “pay” the price for sin; he literally turned the tables of the temple, drove out the money changers, dumped their money on the ground and said, “make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:16.)
In case you missed it, this is so much bigger than just cleaning house. It’s about ridding the human mind of the concept that God needs to be paid by anyone for anything. Salvation is not a transaction. God is not your lender. It’s so much bigger than that. It’s so much better.
God doesn’t refinance your spiritual mortgage. Through at-one-ment, he transforms you into a spiritual Warren Buffet, making you capable of paying off a thousand mortgages. God doesn’t help you pay for a bike. He transform you into someone like him, making you capable of building a bike, even a thousand bike factories.
You are good enough for Him.
Mercy does not rob justice. It overpowers it. God’s grace is so powerful that it cannot be contained or measured in any sense. It defies any type of economy. In fact there is no accounting in an at-one-ment paradigm because we discover God’s love now and, being filled with God’s love (and thus his power), we become one with him … because God is love. (1 John 4:8.)
As we accept and feel God’s love for us, we are powerfully “yoked” together with Christ just as two horses or oxen may be yoked together to pull a carriage or a plow. (Matthew 11:29.) We can’t help but grow and be transformed through the process.
Even the imagery Jesus chooses to describe his desired relationship with us is transformational and at-one-ment oriented. Jesus said, “I am the vine, [and] ye are the branches[,]” (John 15:5). Your interests are merged. One is the extension of the other. It is impossible to see where one leaves off and the other begins. And both, together, are transformed into something different than they are. God becomes human. Human becomes filled with God. Being so transformed, we are now able to transform, which is the whole point. The vine can produce grapes, which can produce wine; the seeds of the grapes can produce additional vines and so on. Can you even begin to count the grapes? Can you count the seeds? Can you count the future vines? It’s not transactional at all, is it! It’s transformational, evolving, and never-ending.
You are God’s temple.
In the economy of Jesus, you no longer go to the temple to offer up your sacrifices. You are God’s temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16.) You are good enough for Him. So much so that that’s where he yearns to be … inside of you. Our communions and sacraments teach us this. His flesh becomes our flesh through ingestion. He wants to be a part of us.
God loves you just the way you are. There’s nothing you can do to make him love you any more or less. But you can be happier by living your days not to merit God’s love but to personify it. You will feel God’s love to the extent that you share it.
The prayer of Jesus to the Father was “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26.) That you may unburden yourself from a transactional relationship with God and experience the in-dwelling and transformational love of God … now … is my prayer, as well.