Search here...

Transactional Love Versus Transformational Love

You know how you sometimes wake from a dream and although you are still sleeping you are aware of what is going on? Almost as if you can dictate your dreams while you are still asleep. The other night I awoke in a rage. Fully loaded with anger and bitterness toward a person that hurt my family and me. I had forgiven this person in every way that I knew how. Confessing my forgiveness aloud, praying and even journaling my way through the emotions of the hurt. But in this dream I was livid and I began to ask God why? Why did this pain seem to cut so deep? It was then that I woke up and I heard the words… Transactional Love versus Transformational Love.

I had never used this type of description for love, but it was as if I already knew the meaning in which God was trying to say.

Transactional love had caused me deep pain and the result was ongoing forgiveness. What I thought to be an authentic love from someone was actually an effort to receive something in return. And when we no longer lived up to that expectation, we suffered in the hurt of what we thought truly existed.

Transactional love is the kind of love that expects something in return.

I have a friend who does not believe in God. However, she is one of the nicest people I know and loves others with her whole heart. She would truly give the shirt off of her back for the sake of someone else. But she rejects Christianity because she has seen more hurt within the walls of Believers than she has in the world in which she lives. How does this happen?

We lose sight of the Greatest Commandment when we give transactional love instead of transformational love.

symbol of love, the greatest command

When I was 11 years old my dad gave his life to the Lord. Giving up alcohol cold turkey and saying goodbye to his party friends was a miracle. He was excited to come into a loving church and find what he had been missing all along. It wasn’t long into the journey that he realized broken people existed inside of the church. For him, I think he had seen so much of the “world” outside of the walls of the church that he was shocked to find that some of the most broken people actually coexist with Jesus loving, song singing Christians.

These broken people are who Jesus calls and it is among them that make up His Church. But if the Church is full of broken people, how then do we become a people that exemplifies Transformational Love?

church full of broken people

Transformational love causes someone’s life to be different or better than it was before.

I believe that in order for us to become people that show Transformational Love to others we must truly experience Transformational Love for ourselves.

We all have a moment as Believers when we can look back on our life and see that the outcome shouldn’t have been that way. That moment where Grace collided with your mistakes and showed you that there is a higher power overlooking your every move. For me, it was in college. But it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I recognized this as Jesus. Once I realized this transformational love that I didn’t deserve was the reason I was still alive and well, I knew I could never turn back and go the other way. But this realization didn’t take away the brokenness.

If God calls the broken to come, then how do we avoid hurting others with our brokenness?

We must understand the difference between transactional love versus transformational love.

We see transactional love almost everywhere. This kind of love expects something in return. We can do this with our kids, our spouses, and our friends. We see this kind of bargaining power in our workplaces and we even see it in our churches. When people become only as important as what they can produce, you as their leader are operating out of transactional love.

I believe in serving the church and volunteering as much as possible because this is what makes up the Hands and Feet of Jesus. But so many times, volunteers are only as important as what they can give. Our job as leaders is to love them with a love that changes them so that they can go out and change those around them. If we only engage with our volunteers, our employees, our family, and our friends for the simple sake of getting something in return, we will never truly impact their life.

Transformational love impacts lives.

My husband Wade, is a project manager for a local homebuilder. Wade has the most favor when it comes to getting his subcontractors to show up on time and do the work as promised. He is really good at his job but if you ask him how he does it, he would tell you it’s because he has a relationship with them. Wade knows their kids’ names, their wives, their background and even their struggles. He has prayed for them on occasion, brought them food, taken them to lunch and engaged in their life outside of just work. But the real indication of his ability to show transformational love is that despite how often he has moved neighborhoods or changed jobs, he is still connected with most. And they know they can count on him.

People move. Friendships change. But when you experience transformational love from someone, that kind of love carries on with you to the next season.

Transactional love will leave as soon as you stop delivering or catering to their needs. But Transformational love is everlasting.

Jesus came to show us the true meaning of transformational love. And although we will never be able to fully give this to others as He did, we can certainly use His life as an example. Jesus served expecting nothing in return. Jesus had deep compassion, mercy and grace for all those He encountered. He prayed for the sick, had dinner with the broken and fought for those who could not fight for themselves. He was a voice for the voiceless. A Light for the darkness. Jesus empowered the weak and humbled the strong.

How often do we love while expecting nothing in return?

Will I keep showing up for my atheist friend and expect nothing in return? Believe me, when I say, she is watching me and waiting for me to reject her because of her different beliefs.

Will I show honor to my husband even when he gives me nothing in return? Although I hate to admit I believe this is one area that can become transactional fast. Especially when busyness occurs and time seems to be nonexistent. You can begin to exchange services (washing dishes for mowing the yard, kind words in hopes to have that project finished, etc.) But can you love your spouse when they show nothing in return?

Can I show grace to my kids even when they give me nothing in return? As moms, we can become drill sergeants over our children expecting our commands to produce results when we speak. Are we giving our kids the kind of love that transforms them into adults that understand grace, mercy, and forgiveness? Or are we showing them that to be loved, they must earn it?

loving our spouse and our kids

And lastly, will I show love to a stranger and expect nothing in return? This holiday season is the perfect time to give back to those in need. These people will never be able to repay us with the kindness that we can give. But we will find that this transformational love not only transforms their hearts but it also changes ours. Love a stranger and expect nothing in return.

No one ever said that being a Christian is easy. But it can be the most fulfilling call we ever experience if we are willing to look outside of ourselves and give real love to others. Transformational love trumps transactional love every time.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Wade and Tiffany Nagy