"You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," was a phrase I heard often growing up. It set the tone for how I would approach life; if you help me, I'll help you. It was meant to encourage us to do things for others that they couldn't do for themselves, but there were strings attached. An expectation of reciprocation. And a way out of future help if the favor wasn't returned.
When I became a follower of Jesus in my late teens I unknowingly applied this idiom to my relationship with God. I'll read my Bible so that God will bless me. I'll go to church so that God will protect me. I'll serve so that God will meet my needs. I viewed my relationship with my Savior as "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
If I'm being honest, I felt like there was a lot of scripture to back up my belief. There's a lot of "if...then" verses in the Bible. Places where God says "if you do this then I will do this." One day I discovered a great example of that in 2 Timothy:
If we die with Him, we will also live with Him,
If we endure hardship,we will reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will deny us.
Seems like a "you scratch my back, I"ll scratch yours" verse to me. But we serve a God who doesn't fit into our boxes. Just as I'm starting to think that God's a fan of reciprocal relationships He throws me a curve ball with the next verse;
If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny who He is.
If I'm unfaithful, He remains faithful. He has to, because for Him to be unfaithful He would have to deny who He is.
We so often treat God like a Cosmic Sugar Daddy* expecting answered prayer as a result of our good works for Him. I know I did for years. But then I realized that I couldn't keep up my end of the deal. Try as hard as I like I found myself messing up over and over again. And if God's favor is dependent on my faithfulness then there's no hope for me.
That's why the gospel is such good news. Because God's faithfulness is not dependent on mine. He knows I'm going to blow it, and He still loves me. With no strings attached.
So... I don't know what yesterday held for you. Maybe it was filled with moments you wish you could erase or words you wish you could take back. I have good news for you! Today is a new day. And today His mercies are waiting for you. Even in your unfaithfulness, He is faithful.
Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23
*Credit to JD for the "Cosmic Sugar Daddy" phrase.