Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
1 John 4:7
In the world of 21st Century philosophy, Charles Taylor is a pretty big name. According to thebestschools.org website, Taylor “has been influential in defining how we conceive of ourselves in the modern world.” In a book entitled, “Dilemmas and Connections”, Taylor makes a compelling observation about the secular mind and what motivates the secular mind to do good for other people.
A paraphrase of Taylor’s observation is as follows: People with a secular mindset do good for others because, among other things, it makes them feel good about themselves. However, cautions Taylor, the danger with this kind of motivation is that it can easily slip into feelings of superiority and even contempt for the very people you are trying to help. This can especially happen, says Taylor, when the people you are trying to help are not as responsive or grateful as you think they should be.
Let’s take the observation of Charles Taylor and turn it on ourselves. As you work to do good for others, how do you react when the people you are trying to help are not as responsive or as grateful as you think they should be? Does your attitude harden, even just a bit, into an attitude of superiority? Does it even darken into an attitude of contempt? Are there times when a bitter voice within you says, “After all I’ve done for them, this is the thanks I get?”
When I slip into such thoughts is when I need to stop and realize something. I need to stop and realize that I have just tipped my hand as to how rancid my motivation has been. I need to stop and realize that I have been living my life for myself. And there is no uglier form of idolatry than that.
That’s why we need Jesus. Out of a kind of selfless love we will never fully comprehend, the Son of God lived a life of perfect service on our behalf. Then he took upon himself the guilt of all of our self-serving motives, our hidden agendas, our false humilities, and he paid the price in full at the cross. And now, as our living Savior, he comes to us in his Word, calling us to repentance, washing us clean, renewing our hearts, empowering us to love others as he has loved us.
What drives real love is not my self-serving pride. What drives real love is Jesus’ love for me.
Lord Jesus, forgive my self-serving agendas. Empower me to love others with your love for me. Amen.
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