According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the root meaning of the English word motive, is “That which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way.”
Have you ever stopped to think about the motives that drive the groups or individuals who are in the national news so often. Perhaps it’s a billionaire who seeks to influence the American legal system. Or maybe it’s one of many social justice organizations that seek to punish certain segments of society today for historic injustices.
Whatever group or would-be influencer it may be, it’s a good bet that there is something inwardly moving them. There is a deeper purpose. They have an end goal toward which they are working. In other words, there’s something at which they are aiming.
I recently read the New Testament book of 1 Timothy. This is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to his young companion and fellow servant in the faith. Paul arranged for Timothy to stay at the city of Ephesus in order to lead the church there. In this letter and the next, Paul sends instructions to Timothy concerning a variety of leadership concerns.
At the beginning of his letter, Paul urges Timothy to stand firm against false teaching. He instructs Timothy to “charge” certain individuals to cease their attempts to change the true message of biblical faith. Paul then explains his motives, and the motives that should inwardly drive Timothy. In 1 Timothy 1:5 (ESV) Paul writes:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
This aim, this deeper purpose, is noteworthy. Paul has no other end game in mind than to love those who are in error. He genuinely desires that they be corrected so that they may know and live the true message of biblical faith. I wonder how many influencers or action groups today can honestly say that they are acting from a pure heart, a good conscience, and in sincere faith?
Of course, Paul’s model was Jesus. Our Lord endured torture and execution so that those who receive his death on their behalf may be eternally free. Jesus died so that we would no longer be slaves to sin and spend eternity separated from God.
As Jesus faced his accusers, he had the authority and power to do whatever he desired. He could have at that moment overthrown the entire world system and ruled everything. Instead he humbled himself. He suffered the humiliation of death on a cross for our sins. What motive could have been more pure or more sincere?
As Christ followers walk the earth today and wait for the certain return of our Lord, it would benefit us to from time to time check our own motives. Are we inwardly motivated by love? Is our end game to put the needs of others before our own? Do we seek God’s guidance and help to live in ways that are pleasing to Him?
To the degree that we are motivated by love and even attempt by God’s grace to live our lives with a pure heart, a good conscience, and in sincere biblical faith, we will be different from many among whom we live and move. It just may be that as they watch us live our lives they may wonder, they may even ask, why we make the choices we do. At such times we have an opportunity to truly love others by simply sharing the way the Lord has been working to bring us closer to himself.
Oh Lord, help us to aim for love. Empower us to draw nearer to you than we have ever been. And help us to share what you are doing in our lives with others that they may have the opportunity to come to know you. Amen.