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Can We Love Without a Motive?

Self | Attie Murphy | 5 mins

“What is love?” That is the question of the ages and the title of a 90s song that gets stuck in my head whenever I hear that sentence. There are many definitions of love, depending on who we ask; some emotional and some action-based. The Bible tells us that love is a choice we should make. Why should we believe that? Because Jesus is the evidence of what love looks like. The proof we have of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is proof that His definition of love is true. When God’s Word tells us that God is love, we have every reason to believe Him. Therefore, when we wonder what love is, we can know it is what God says it is. It is selfless and honest. It is forgiving and just. It is a decision to care for others without our own agenda.

The more I love, the more I want control. Sometimes that means worrying about the choices of a loved one or wishing I could “do it all” when it comes to issues I’m passionate about. When I think about love as an action, I want my love to create an outcome. Even when it comes to something simple, like greeting a stranger, it’s hard not to have an agenda. Selfish instinct gives me the expectation of receiving something positive from my positive actions. To follow Jesus, I have to continually remind myself what He would do. I know His love is not about a superficial image or dependent on our goodness. God’s love allows free will, and with that comes boundaries. I can reflect that by treating others with kindness, even if they don’t reciprocate. It also means that when people reject me, I shouldn’t force my support on them, and I should stand up for what I believe. That’s where it can get tricky. How can I love people when I don’t see any motivation “for me?”

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” - Proverbs 16:2 

The truth is, there is always a motive for love, but the most difficult thing for us to embrace is God’s motive. We might think we are pursuing God’s motive when we love someone with the intent of bringing them closer to Him. However, we inject narcissism when we get frustrated that a person’s heart isn’t apparently changing, no matter how long we show them love. We want to see the fruits of “our good.” The issue with that is it isn’t our good; it’s God’s good that changes hearts. To trust in His plan means that our goal isn’t self-glorification. To love as God calls us to means loving when we don't know if we will see results. We need to trust that God uses our love for Him whether we see it or not.

When we love others with our trust in God, we don’t give up on people or think our love is “pointless” because someone is too far gone. Sure, love can require boundaries, and sometimes we need to love from afar, but we shouldn’t turn our back on anyone simply because they aren’t making us feel like “successful disciples.” No one is out of God’s reach, and He is the One working. Whether we’re with fellow Christians or people we hope to point to God, we should act with love because of Jesus, not for the sake of our own productivity. We can never waste love; it should be who we are.

The next time you face anxiety about your relationships or question how you should give grace to someone, know that it is already in God’s hands. No matter how you move forward, He will do good. You won’t know the details of His plans, but you can know that His motive is love. Trusting God with your heart is the best way to bring peace to your steps as you reach out to the hearts of others.


Written By

Attie Murphy

An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.

Published on Jul 28, 2022