I used to have a professor in college who when trying to get at the heart of a question would often ask ‘what’s your purpose or what are you trying to accomplish?’ When it comes down to it, everything we do in life is driven my some internal motivation. We get out of bed and get ready in the morning to go to work, or school, or care for others. We write cards, letters, or send texts because we want someone to know that we care about them. We may even yell at someone as a reaction to them yelling at us, which made us angry. It may not always be obvious, and we may not be able to put words to what motivates us to do what we do, but if we dig deep enough, it is there, whether we try to ignore it or cover it up with something nicer than what is really motivating us. Why are you even reading this article today…what do you hope to accomplish in this?
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
People can even do seemingly ‘good’ things for the wrong motive. We can give to someone in hopes of getting something in return, regardless of whether they are friends, children, or even strangers. We feed and care for pets in hopes that they will do their job or share some affection toward our family (with the exception of our cat). Even our apparently altruistic actions toward strangers or toward ‘bad’ or mean people can be driven by something more than just ‘being nice.’ Maybe we hope God will see our ‘good deeds’ and reward us in some way, or maybe we are truly doing some of these things out of love and not selfish ambition. Can we really do things out of motivation that is not selfish? What was the most selfless thing you did for someone this week?
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:2-3
Honestly, I did not really understand what love was until I started to grasp what God did for us through the work of Jesus on the cross. Trying to wrap my head around the unmerited grace that He has shown to us in the gift of salvation has compelled me to try understand the limits to how we are able to love others in return. You hear stories of the lengths some will go to sacrifice for others, spouses, children, and even the lost in far off places in the world. It makes our greed and selfishness stand out in stark contrast to the opposite side of human behavior. In popular culture, (romantic) love is often used for what is truly lust, and the two could not be more opposite. Lust is selfish and love is selfless and sacrificial. When our true motive toward others is love, the result is often what God wants from us and for us.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Our attempts to love others are in reality small efforts to declare the glory of God and his Kingdom here in this world. It is a ray of light in the dark and sometimes discouraging, broken world we live in. When our motives change from selfishness, greed, fear, and hate toward genuine love toward others, God is doing a good work in us. When His love is manifest in us, we are truly living out the command that Christ gave to each of his disciples and to us. As we fellowship with Christ, the natural response of that is to love others, and when we see them as Christ sees them, it is possible even with those who are most difficult to love. With Him, even this is possible!
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Yours in Christ,