31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.
The world runs on the notion of quid pro quo – I do this, and you give me that. It’s certainly true in the economic sphere. I mean, there isn’t any such thing as a free lunch, is there?
And it’s also often true in the relational sphere. Have you ever thought to yourself: “I can ask them to help out. They owe me a favor”? Even in close relationships – among siblings and between romantic partners – we often operate with a kind of scorekeeping mentality. “I unloaded the dishwasher this morning, and I’ve taken out the trash the last three times, so…”
No question, we should be paying attention to what’s equitable in relationships…otherwise we start to build up resentments.
But at the same time, if we want to become more like God, we need to practice something different. Jesus paints a picture of a God who gives without asking anything in return, who shows kindness whether that kindness is returned or not, and who somehow manages to love even the most unlovable people.
If we want to grow in godliness, these are some things that we’re going to have to practice. It’s not enough to do for someone in order to receive something in return. If we want to be more like the One who made us, we’ve got to learn to offer ourselves – our time, effort, love, and care – freely, without expecting anything in return.
It’s a process, to be sure. We should only expect to succeed in small doses. Because we’re human, no one can give forever without receiving love or care in return. I don’t believe God would ask us to. But I do believe that God calls those who follow Jesus to intentionally stretch themselves to become more giving, more loving, more forgiving – while worrying less about what’s in it for us.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How might you stretch yourself today to share God’s love in ways where you are unlikely to receive anything in return? Pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to opportunities.
Prayer: Giving God, I confess that often I make decisions about when and where to offer help based on what might be in it for me. Enable me to think of myself less today, so that I can see ways to extend your love and care to those around me, even if they can’t return the favor. Amen.