Ultimate Motives vs Ulterior Motives
I have read several books over the years that have touched on the idea of examining our motives when seeking to introduce others to Christ. The comparison that posted like a sticky note somewhere in the “easy to recall” section of my brain was this: Ultimate vs. Ulterior Motives.
I have thought about that comparison many times in the past few years.
When I met Jesus in college and placed my faith in Him, there was no doubt that He took up residence in me. I experienced steady spiritual growth as I got to know and trust Him more and more. Part by part, I allowed Jesus to preside over all the territory of my life, mind and heart. But from the get-go, even as a new believer still struggling against so many outward and visible sin patterns, I felt compelled to tell others about Christ and the relationship we can have with God through Him. I recall taking co-workers out to lunch to tell them about Jesus and my new faith in Him. I remember sitting on my balcony smoking a cigarette with a classmate and sharing a clear gospel message with her (smoking is not recommended, by the way)! I’m not proud or ashamed of that moment–it simply illustrates that something happened to me–no, someONE happened to me, and I couldn’t keep it to myself.
Fast forward to the present: I still can’t help but talk about God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent. I’ve never recovered from the amazing grace I was offered and want everyone to know about it. But the longer I walk with Jesus, the more sensitive I’ve become to the fact that sometimes believers can see people as projects, or simply people we are responsible to convert to Christianity. I want people to know and follow Jesus, but I also want to build relationships with people that can endure, even if they aren’t interested in spiritual things.
I recently heard Dave Runyon, author of The Art of Neighboring, say that motives are really important in our culture today. He mentioned that people tend to be wary around Christians today because they can feel like they are projects for us. Then he gave the pivotal BUT and said, “But when you go in (to a relationship with a neighbor) with the mindset of ‘even if this person never takes a step toward God, I still believe in my heart that the command to love my neighbor stands’....when you go in with that motive, people can tell there’s not an agenda.” Dave went on to share that when we believe loving our neighbor is a call of discipleship for us as believers, then our neighbors can tell that we truly care and are curious. Often they care and are curious in return and evangelistic opportunities usually happen naturally.
Yes! I love people (and love often includes introducing them to God’s Word and explaining the Good News), but they aren’t projects. I always want to be authentic and open about my faith. I unashamedly have ULTIMATE motives (to speak often and highly of my God and Savior), but I don’t have ulterior motives (befriending people only to tell them what I believe and moving on if they don’t want to hear it).
How about you? What comes to mind when you consider ULTIMATE motives? Isn’t it incredible that the God of the universe desires us to talk to others about the hope of Christ that we have in our lives? May we be faithful to love our neighbors with a drink of water or the proclamation of the gospel.