In the comments of my last post, Danny Kaye raised a very good point. In regard to my point about forgiving as an act of obedience, he suggested that “humility through gratitude” should motivate us to forgive. I agree with this wholeheartedly as a motivation.
The bottom line is, God commands us to forgive. For whatever reason we do so, obedience is required. The question is, “Why should I obey?”
I want to explore that thought a little further. As I see it, there are two sides to the obedience/disobedience equation: the motivation that causes us to obey/disobey and the consequences of obedience/disobedience. For the sake of this conversation, I will focus upon obedience.
Motivation can be either positive or negative. Let me explain. I have two sons that I love very much. To the best of my ability, I instruct them on how to live a life that is good for them. I expect them to obey me. Why do they obey me? It is because of one of two reasons: 1) They love me, (or as Danny said, “Humility through gratitude”) 2) They fear the consequences of not obeying. I would much rather they obey me out of love than out of fear.
The Bible tells us that we are to, “Fear God and keep his commandments,” Ecclesiastes 12:13. It also quotes Jesus as saying, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15. This would tell me that while God is interested in our motivation, He is much more concerned about the fact of our obedience. Does this mean that our motivation doesn’t matter? Of course not. Let me show you what I see as the big difference between obeying out of love and obeying out of fear.
It is the same difference as that between law and grace. If I am obeying God out of fear (law), I will constantly be asking myself, “Is this good enough? Will God be satisfied with this?” On the other hand, if I am obeying out of love (humble gratitude in response to God’s grace), I will constantly be asking God, “What else can I do for you? What can I do now to please you?” Love is so much better as a motivation.
The conclusion I hold to is this, if I am forgiving others (or obeying any of God’s other commands for that matter) from the motivation of love, I will not be concerned about the consequences of my actions. If I am motivated by fear, my forgiveness may be restrained by concern of the consequences.
The solution is found in the Great Commandment and the second, KC posted about this recently. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourself. With this kind of love, all things are possible.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18