For a long time, the relationship between God and people was a transaction. It was always quid pro quo, this for that, tit for tat. “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. . . . ‘If I am a father, where is the honor due me?’” (Malachi 1:2,6). The return the Father expected for his love was more than just a little respect.
Then out of the blue God trusted us with grace. It was no longer a two-sided transaction. He made it only quid; he made it only this. “They will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son” (Malachi 3:17). He sent Jesus, who showed us love going one way only. Jesus nudges our response away from ourselves in the direction of how we treat each other.
We are used to bartering with each other. It is embedded in everything we do in business, government, and ministry. Our interactions with each other are mostly matters of give-and-take, and often they need to be: taxes for services, money for goods, donations for books. But what happens when we trust each other with grace the same way God trusted us? What if we didn’t try to assess if others are worthy of love? What if we didn’t care if they wanted love for the right reasons? What if we didn’t ask for anything in return? What if we just loved people? I have a strong feeling they would love us back.