Dear Mr. Christian, What’s Your Motive?


Recently, I was thinking about a particular scene in the movie “Training Day.” In the scene, Alonzo (a cop played by Denzel Washington) jokingly says to Hoyt (his young protégé played by Ethan Hawke) that every criminal a cop kills in the line of duty will be his slave in the afterlife. Something about this scene made me think about where our hearts are when we, as Christians, share our faith with non-believers. What is our motive?

The cop that’s referred to in the joke kills criminals not because he wants to protect the innocent, but because he wants to have slaves in the afterlife; the cop’s motives are selfish, even though his actions are good. Likewise, do we as Christians share our faith hoping to score holy points? Do we want another “heathen conversion” notch under our belts or are we doing it out of love for others and for the glory of God? This distinction is important because I think one’s motivation affects their approach in at least three ways that I can see:

1. You’re more likely to be argumentative, than compassionate.

When speaking with a non-believer you’re likely going to encounter many falsehoods and misconceptions. If you’re motivated by selfishness, then you may focus too much time trying to prove yourself right, which is likely to be counterproductive. Instead we should spend more time listening, so that we can get at people’s hearts. When Jesus spoke to the rich young man in Matthew 19, He was able to expose the young man’s false sense of righteousness. Doing that in our interactions can be a huge step in the right direction.

2. You’re more likely to be overly eager in securing the conversion.

When Christians come off like a pushy car-salesman trying to close a deal, we are likely going to meet resistance. If we remember instead that only God can give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6), then we will be more like a patient gardener.

3. You’re less likely to develop lasting relationships.

Nobody wants to feel like they’re someone’s project. If you have the wrong motivation, people will see that you aren’t as interested in them as you are interested in changing them.

The bottom line is that the decision to become a follower of Christ doesn’t come easy for some people, if it ever comes at all. Either way, Christians really have to make sure that they share the Gospel because they have a genuine love for people and not because they want to pat themselves on the back.

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2 Responses to Dear Mr. Christian, What’s Your Motive?

  1. Chidinma Ume says:

    Great insight. Any thoughts on how improper motives for spreading the Gospel might affect our relationship with God here on Earth and in Heaven?

    • Quasi-Paul says:

      If we treat evangelism as if marketing an ordinary product that we want people to buy, then we are more likely to use tactics that water down the Gospel message because it’s more palatable. For example, many ministries that are very successful seem to constantly emphasize the love of God without speaking about God’s wrath. Other times you might hear a heavy use of the word God, without mention of Jesus. The Bible teaches that ministry leaders have a heavy burden to properly lead their flocks, so I think that improper motives that lead to these tactics will have eternal consequences.

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