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I catch myself in the middle of the day realizing that I am disappointed or feeling some anger towards someone else because they haven’t responded to me “the right way.” And when the Spirit calls my attention to that, I am forced to reflect on just what kind of reciprocation I was expecting. (For, after all, if I did not expect any reciprocation and if I had not expectation of “payback,” then I would not be bothered at all by not being responded to “the right way.”)

Previous posts explored this idea of non-reciprocal living. And I am still thinking it through, trying to embrace this Biblical call (anchored in Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36). Although I do catch glimpses of this kind of life, I am still seeking to fully lean into living non-reciprocally.

Peter helps me with my thinking, reflecting on what he wrote in his first epistle. In describing how servants are to live, he offers some insight into the foundation for all non-reciprocal living:

This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps,  who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to [God] who judges righteously.  (1 Peter 2:19-23)

There are a number of things that leap out of this passage, calling for my attention. And all seem to point to this non-reciprocal kind of life.

  • Suffering in life might just be unjust, unwarranted. If we expect to be treated well because we are seeking to live well, we will be disappointed when we are not reciprocated.
  • Suffering unjustly when doing what is right “finds favor with God.” This doesn’t mean that our suffering is meritorious; that we earn or merit favor with God. But is does mean that God is glad for our living well in the midst of suffering. (It makes him look good, because we are saying by our living well that we value life with him over being treated by others the way we expect they should treat us.)
  • When I revile (that is, speak disparagingly of another) or when I threaten (affirming my desire to get even, to get back at someone), it is an indication that I am more interested in being reciprocated than I am with living Christ-like. Those response are like gauges on my soul that can show me what I really am living for.
  • Our calling in Christ is not a call to be treated well by others, but a call to suffer along with Jesus. (Why didn’t someone tell me that when I first responded to the Gospel? I thought the invitation in the Gospel was an invitation to get life on my terms with God’s help. Seriously–and sadly–some do seem to think that the invitation Jesus extends to us to participate in his life is an invitation to ease and comfort and increased admiration by others. But this is clearly not the case.)
  • The way forward in living non-reciprocally with others is to entrust ourselves to the one who judges righteously. Like Jesus, we can rest in the certainty that the Father above is watching, discerning, determining, weighing, and he will ensure that the outcome of our lives, our loving, and our suffering will be “judged” appropriately. We do not have to fight to have others see it, reciprocate us, or even affirm us.


  1. Incredibly timely words. I’ve felt very wrongly treated by some other believers, but looking at the Scripture here allows me to realease my anger and frustration, remembering that my life with Christ is of much greater value than being recipricated to in the way that I want.

  2. Such an honest and healthy thought, Irene! It is so sweet to be free from the anger and frustration that sometimes arises in relationship (even with other believers) by simply adopting Jesus’ view of non-reciprocal relationship. I am free to be the person I want to be in Him . . . apart from how others may or may not respond.

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