"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Friday, December 28, 2012

Motives of the Heart

Crime dramas can shock us, but they can also inform us. I find it interesting that the legal system is so invested in determining motive. In some cases, even when it is known that one person took another's life, the issue of motive can make the difference between a few years imprisonment and the death penalty. Motives are huge.

As Paul continues to weave a rich and varied tapestry in Philippians 2, he cautions the readers regarding their motives:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

This verse at first might even seem out of place in the otherwise poetically beautiful and positive passage. Paul invested the majority of Chapter 1 expressing his deep affection and appreciation for the church in Philippi. He has started Chapter 2 emphasizing the spiritual benefits of connection with Christ. He has asked the readers to make his joy complete by being united in mind, spirit, and purpose. Now, in this little verse, he does what Scripture is known to do, he shines a light on the thoughts and intentions of the heart. He challenges them to check their motives.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul taught that even the most dramatically supernatural gifts exercised without love, count for nothing, amounting to just so much noise. Even the good things we do need to come from the Holy Spirit within us, not from our own fleshly desires to look good or to gain attention or approval.

Perhaps you know someone who embodies this virtue, especially the part about considering others better than ourselves. I once heard  about a scholar who was invited to a program which he did not know was in his honor as it was a surprise for him. This man was accompanied onto the stage by a colleague. When the crowd burst into applause, the honored man immediately turned and began to applaud the colleague! It never even occurred to him that he was the object of such applause. He assumed the other man was more deserving of honor. I think this is what Paul is talking about. He wants us to focus so on the strength and beauty of the Spirit in each other that we are sincerely honored to share life with one another.

As we exercise our gifts, some people will express their approval. I like the analogy of the donkey at the triumphal entry...what if the colt thought the "hosannas" were for him? Remember the King we serve and,  look for him in one another's eyes. This is our challenge and our blessing. Seek him in the hearts of your brothers and sisters, and you will find him there.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

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