To propel an object is to drive, push, or cause it to move in a particular direction. Likewise, to be propelled is to be driven, pushed, or caused to move in a particular direction. Everyone is propelled by something. While some are propelled by greed, others are propelled by acceptance. While some are propelled by pleasure, others still are propelled by renown.
As I write this, I’ve been involved with church ministry in a myriad of capacities for eight years, and one of the “propellers” I regularly see (and even adopted myself at one point) was the the desire to be a “biblical” Christian—it was the benchmark of maturity and the principle attribute of a Christian who was “on the right track.” I was quite zealous in my pursuit of being a “biblical” Christian, if I may say so myself. The heart-cry of my prayers were, “God, I just want to be a biblical Christian!” Cue turning point and in barges March of 2012. While I do not recall the date specifically, an event took place where my desires and motivations were confronted in a way I had not expected.
I was at the home of one of the students in the student ministry I was serving with when God asked me a peculiar question, “Do you want to know why you’re not seeing any growth in your ministry?” I was confused, and if I’m being honest, slightly offended by the question, but I couldn’t help myself from replying, “No, but I certainly would like to know.”
Before I share what He identified as the obstacle, it would be beneficial if I shared a little bit about the Casey from 2009.
I was going to be teaching a bible study on the nature of love from First Corinthians 13:1-8a to high school students. While I was preparing I thought, “How cool would it be if I didn’t have to reference the passage while teaching?” So, I memorized the chapter and felt ready to teach with an authority they’d yet to see (I’m only partially kidding).
That’s the backdrop to God’s question, and now we’re back to March of 2012 at the student’s house where I’m getting ready to lead the bible study when Holy Spirit so gently and respectfully revealed the obstacle to my flourishing ministry. “You don’t actually love them.” He said. “You only care about being right.” “Woah, woah!” I thought, “I only want the same thing You want—for them to live a biblical lifestyle!” In that moment I experienced a harmonious explosion of lightbulb moments; it all clicked and I felt very, very silly.
We don’t see Jesus waking up in the morning and saying, “Alrighty, gotta be sure to live out these 613 laws today!” What’s more is we don’t even see Him instructing His disciples to observe the 613 laws. When we look at the life of Jesus as recorded by the four gospel writers, what we see is that He was preoccupied with being love. What is worthy of noting here is when the religious experts asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest out of all 613, He revealed that the entire Old Covenant—all of the Law and the Prophets—could be summed up in just four words: Love God; love people (see Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28).
While the Old Covenant possessed 613 commands, the New Covenant is characterized by one: love one another as God has loved you (see John 13:34, 15:12). Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:15, called Jesus the visible image of the invisible God. This means that if it cannot be said of Jesus, then it cannot be said of God, thus revealing that God is not One who delights in the burdening of others. Instead, He delights in giving rest to the weary and giving a light workload (see Matthew 11:28-30). I don’t believe Jesus is concerned with us living what many would call a “biblical” life. If the 613 ingredients of the Old Covenant produced a love reduction, and the principle command Jesus gave concerning the New Covenant was love, what then should our focus be?
The nature of God and His grace, mercy, generosity, justice, and so forth, are propelled by love. The motive of the Cross and Resurrection was none other than love. The soul of generosity is love. The essence of selflessness is love. The fundamental property of humility is love. The lifeblood of service is love. True justice bubbles up, not from a desire for vengeance or retribution, but from love. John the Beloved shared the only reason you and I even have the capacity to love is because God first loved us (see First John 4:19).
You could be generous, servant-minded, gracious, merciful, selfless, respectful, and an upright citizen and still not be propelled by the life-source of the Cross and Resurrection—love. My point, if I’ve failed to make it clear, is this: if your motives and intentions are not propelled by love, you’ve missed it (see First Corinthians 13:1-3). This begs the question the musical artist Haddaway asked in 1993: “What is Love?”
J. Budziszewski, professor of government and philosophy at The University of Texas, has stated, “Love is the truest commitment of one’s will to the betterment of another person.” Love, in order to be love, must be other-focused and self-giving. For example, if a Cub Scout helps an elderly woman bring her groceries into the house to fulfill the necessary merits for his service badge, he failed; but, if he helped her out of a genuine concern for her welfare, he succeeded.
In closing, I’d like to suggest that we shouldn’t be consumed with “being a good Christian” if that doesn’t first mean being focused on manifesting love to the world around us. Reserve some time today or tomorrow to reflect and ask yourself, “What am I propelled by?”
Dearest reader, you are loved.