Love Without Expectation
King Herod thought that, by building the new Temple, he would earn the right to control the Sanhedrin and appoint the Chief priests. He did have some measure of influence within the Sanhedrin. It was like a Jewish Supreme Court, made up of roughly half conservatives (Pharisees) and half liberals (Sadducees). Being a good politician and having extreme wealth meant that Herod was able to deftly maneuver both sides against one another to get what he wanted.
Including, at times, appointing the High Priest.
At first blush, it seems like Herod succeeds in gaining the rights he sought to purchase. He wanted control, and he got it. But here’s the thing. Herod killed three High Priests during the many troubled years of his rule (including his own nephew). Why? For plotting against him.
Even though Herod had influence and could even make important political appointments, he had no real “rights” with the people. He could never force them to do what he wanted, when he wanted, in the way he wanted. Always their own motives and allegiances betrayed the man they feared would soon betray them.
Herod’s mistake is one we all make far too often.
Like Herod, we think that we can compel others to treat us how we want. We mistakenly think that doing unto others will force them to do back to us. But it doesn’t work like that. You can’t actually make anyone do anything.
So, the young girl who sleeps with her boyfriend in hopes that she will make him love her is in for a rude awakening. She has just made a horrible trade, because you can’t control what others do.
And the employee who works long unpaid hours on the weekend in hopes of gaining the attention of her boss is, likewise, in for a bad surprise. Because he may not reward you, thank you, or even notice you. Why? Because he doesn’t have to.
And the elder son who spends all his efforts on winning his father’s approval will inevitably be disappointed. Because nothing he does will force his father to give it.
You can’t make people do what you want. Our achievements do not guarantee that others will respond to us in kind. At the end of the day, we ought to live as best we can in spite of what others may or may not do in return. We should love without expectation, not trying to force others to do anything, but simply loving them because it forces us to become better shadows of God.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com