April 24, 2012

What is my motivation?

God is convicting me about my shallow motivations and sometimes going through the motions without the right attitude. While doing the right thing is important, I too easily do it out of duty or obligation rather than loving obedience to God. Today’s devotional verse heightens that conviction. 
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)
Nothing could be plainer; God wants my actions under the motivation of His love. Lest I think that love is about feeling like it or having a loving attitude, these verses quickly add that His love led Jesus to die for us. He wasn’t being dutiful, faking it, or filled with gushy emotion. In Gethsemane, He asked, “If possible, let this cup pass from me” indicating He would rather not, yet He also said, “Not my will but Thine be done” showing His total commitment to obedience. The love of God controlled Him and because it did, sinners can have eternal life.

But this love is costly. Faking it is not. In fact, faking it could be motivated by personal gain. If I look good or “spiritual” in the eyes of others, then I might think that is credit to my account. However, demonstrating the love of God is never about living for my own benefit and pleasure, but living for Him. This is not a surface, rote, or duty kind of obedience, but one that comes from the heart.

Genuine love may not be appreciated. Christ died for “all” but do “all” even care? Does Jesus receive praise, thanksgiving or allegiance from those for whom He died? Even those of us who believe in Him are often ungrateful and quick to take glory for ourselves when it belongs to Him. Not only that, I can be hurt and offended when I serve others and they do not show any appreciation for my efforts. Those negative responses show me that my love is often more “my” doing it than being motivated by Him. 

The phrase about this love controlling us keeps echoing in my heart. Loving others should never come from a sense that I should. It is supposed to come from a force so deep in me that it permeates all that I am and motivates what I do, even without thinking about it. The love of Christ is not calculating or trying harder. It just is.

I like the story about a middle-aged business executive who seems to have a better handle on this love than I do. One day he approached the front entrance of the office building in which he worked. A young feminist came up at the same moment, so he stepped back and held the door open for her to pass on through. She looked at him and said with annoyance, “Don’t hold the door for me just because I’m a lady.”

To her surprise, he smiled and replied, “I’m not. I’m holding it open because I’m a gentleman.”

Lord, this is an ongoing challenge. Loving others must come from You, for in myself I am totally selfish. As You give opportunity, prompt from within that attitude that others are more important than myself. May I continually realize that nothing is more important than living for You — who died and rose again for me.

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