I continue to think about how we can have some level of assurance that our actions are aligned with God’s will (as best we understand it). This matters because people do all sorts of things, both good and bad, in God’s name and on God’s behalf.
Yesterday I suggested that humility needed to be a part of this process. Today I want to add in the idea of motive. You can pick your issue, but when Christians are involved on either side of the debate you can be sure all of us think we are doing God’s will. On the surface, our motive is to be faithful. But that is not the only thing that motivates us. We might ask ourselves what else is driving my actions and ideas? Are they arising out of fear? Or out of love, concern for the other? Fear is a powerful motivator for us humans- actually it is a powerful motivator for all creatures. You may remember this simple biological response to fear- either fight or flight.
If we see the world around us as a dangerous place, we might withdraw from it. We close ourselves off into safe Christian areas. We might, however, decide to fight. To stand for what we believe is important. But when we act out of fear, we are almost by definition working to protect ourselves. We don’t have the emotional and rational energy to worry about anyone else- the other. In fact they, those others, may well be part of the problem.
If we are afraid of the stranger, the poor, the different, the “other” it will be hard- perhaps impossible to do anything but react in a way to preserve our sense of safety. Preying on our fears is a common strategy these days for politicians and preachers alike.
But the Bible urges us to go a different way. “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19) Actually all of 1 John is helpful in thinking about this.
We need to be honest with ourselves about what our motives are. What emotions are driving our words and our actions. Are we motivated by fear? Or by love? It can be hard to know. Our minds are quite skilled at justifying our actions and telling us what we want to hear. But it is so important for us to be involved in the spiritual practices and disciplines that will help us recognize what our motivations are.