This idea of doing favors and owing favors came up in my English class late last year, but it had to . . . percolate through my brain . . . and integrate with some other input before I saw the spiritual application. Other input like:
We have limited the impact and meaning of Christianity by majoring on personal salvation given to us in and through Jesus as Redeemer while effectively leaving the Jesus as Lord part out of the equation.
–Alan Hirsch, in the forward to Sacrilege, by Hugh Halter
Think about a time when someone approached you and asked, “Will you do me a favor?” When did you answer that question in your mind? Did you need to know what they wanted first? Probably not, unless you are a very suspicious person. Most of the time, we answer immediately because our answer is based on the relationship we have with that person rather than on the task they will request.
In addition, that person knows the depth of the relationship, and we trust the person to ask for something that ‘fits’ the level of relationship we share. We also understand that favors imply reciprocity. You “owe” me in direct proportion to the magnitude of the favor I do for you.
There are certain people who could ask me for a kidney, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give it. They could ask me for a $1000, and I would walk straight to the ATM. (These few people know who they are, so don’t try it if you’re not one of them!) It really doesn’t matter what they ask because the relationship is so deep and so strong that I will do it regardless of what it costs me. And I will not expect to be repaid.
When we surrender ourselves to be Followers of Jesus, it’s so much more than signing up for the Heavenly choir! We have given Jesus permission to ask us for as many favors as He wants–from huge to hardly noticeable. Our answer to Him cannot be based on the significance of the task or the number of ‘favors’ we’ve already done for Him. It must be based on the existing relationship we have with Him.
Here’s what typically happens: He says, “Get ready. I’m about to call you to something.”
We reply, “Well, what is it? I probably need to pray about it first and decide if I’m ‘up to it’. Then I need to see how it fits into my schedule and what repercussions I should expect.”
NO!!! The conversation should be more like, “My child, I want you to . . .” and we say, “Yes, Lord” before He even finishes the sentence. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered (Acts 9:10). Then God tells Ananias to go to Saul/Paul–a scary proposition! Ananias has some . . . let’s call them ‘hesitations’ (9:13-14), but he has already said “yes”, and there’s no doubt that He will obey. A willingness to say “yes” doesn’t mean you’re foolhardy; it doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid. It means that you trust the One Who Asks, and you agree with Him regarding the status of your relationship which, as I said, determines your response.
So if we approach obedience like we approach favors for friends, we will consider our relationship with Jesus, and answer based on its depth and importance to us rather than looking at the task.
The relationship determines the response–not the risks, rewards, or rights.
And what, you may ask, about the reciprocity aspect of favor-doing in this context? Well, He already gave everything, didn’t He?