So we’re wrapping up this two-parter about love… “parter” is not a word, just for the record.
Any who, you may or may not have read Exploring Love Part 1 where we took a look at the idea of whether or not we “deserve” love. I’m not gonna recap that here, but you can take a moment to read that post if you haven’t cause we’re picking up in the story right where we left off…right about now…
So! After I responded to my friend about how Jesus would give them way more than I just did, they responded to me saying:
“I owe you then.”
I owe you.
Once again, I was unsettled a bit by the response.
You see, my parents taught me to never give away something expecting a return and to never let anyone borrow something I’m not willing to never get back.
That was worded kind of weird. Let me try that again.
I was taught to:
1) Give without expectation and
2) Loan with an attitude of giving
In this case in particular, I was giving a gift, without wanting or expecting anything in return so when they told me “I owe you,” it felt like they were missing the point, diminishing the significance of the gift.
This led me to think about God’s perfect gift to us and explore His expectations of us.
After all, He does instruct us to present our bodies as living sacrifices and obey His commands.
Aren’t these things He’s expecting in return for His gift of love and salvation?
Is God saying we “owe” Him for saving us and loving us?
We know the indisputable biblical truth is that God loved us first and took the first step towards absolute reconciliation between Himself and His muddied creation (that includes you and me).
So now the question is, did He do it expecting us, in return, to say, “What do I owe you?”
And if He did, does that lessen the impact of His first step because now He has something to gain?
So then can we really count His reason as purely motivated by love?
And if we do owe Him, what the heck do we owe? And how do we repay it?
There are a ton of questions that can be asked and researched on this topic, but I’ll share what I’ve come to understand of it so far (and if you have any thoughts, views, or comments, please do share them in the comment section below).
I’ll try to share this next part as succinctly as possible, keeping in mind, two years from now, I could have an entirely new understanding of this.
But as for today, right now, I believe when this is boiled down, I’m exploring the difference between obligation and motivation.
Obligation vs. Motivation
From what I’ve learned and studied this far in life, I’ve yet to find a motive for God sending Jesus to die for our sins other than pure, unadulterated love.
This love is a love that we don’t know how to give which is why we end up with questions like I shared above.
It’s why when someone does something for us, we feel like we owe that person.
Like when your birthday is a week before a friend’s and they buy you a bomb birthday gift and you’d only planned to get them a card :/
You know, the whole “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” bit.
These responses boil down to an act of obligation.
I don’t believe God sacrificed His only Son then raised Him from the grave then left us with the power of His Holy Spirit, for us to live our lives in service to Him out of an act of obligation.
If obligation were His motivator, He wouldn’t have had to go through such great lengths to accomplish His goal. He could’ve just commanded and punished and instilled a deep-seated fear within us to “make us act right or else.”
I also don’t believe God did all of that on our behalf to motivate us to love Him either. If that were the case He’d be rewarding us like crazy for living for Him and we wouldn’t have to suffer as He suffered. We’d have some sort of Christian Incentive Program that everyone in the world would want to get in on!
I believe that God did it, not for us to give Him something back, but because He loved us that much.
Now, here’s what it does do to us:
Naturally, when a person loves you well, you desire to love them back. It’s easy to love when love is first given to you.
I believe God’s love for us is what motivates us to live for Him and to love others. It’s not a matter of trying to get something in return.
We love because we are motivated by His love.
However, He didn’t love us to motivate us to love—He loved because He loved.
I hope I’m making some piece of sense with all of this. It makes complete sense in my head, I promise.
Let’s wrap this up:
1 John 3:16
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
I didn’t give to motivate my friend to feel like they “owed” me. I gave because I wanted to show an act of love. The result of my act, was them having the desire to give back. And such is the case with the person who realizes the weight and magnitude of the love of God.
It is why we offer our bodies as living sacrifices—because we are motivated by a love that was given with absolutely no strings attached.
Let’s seek to accept and recognize the love of God on a deeper, more personal level. And may the more we understand His love, motivate us to know Him more, to live as He desires us to live, and to love others well.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”