What motivates us to serve?

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
- from 1 John 4:18

What a beautiful image: love driving out fear like lamplight chasing darkness to the corner of a room, out the window, and down the street. Love pushes fear off of the top of the hill. Love makes fear catch the first stagecoach out of town. Love creates small and meaningful circles of safety.

Fear can motivate us to serve others. So can love. On the surface, you might not be able to tell the difference between the two. The same work might get done. But a world of difference between the two exists within our hearts.

When we serve out of fear, we strengthen fear’s hold over us. We worry that we’ll not be enough. We experience anxiety that serving will cost too much. We do the work but sinkholes form in our hearts.

When love motivates our service, we do the same work that we would do if we’re motivated by fear. The difference is that we’re less self-conscious. We experience freedom to be ourselves and to make real, honest, authentic connections. We’re sensitive to God’s leading in the moment.

Some of us have scars from past serving experiences. We volunteered with a non-profit and weren’t shown respect. We helped someone who tried to take advantage of us. We opened ourselves up to a faith community who drained the life out of us. The fear of repeating these negative experiences can make us hesitant to move forward in the future.

But God keeps calling us. He calls us to love because he has shown us love. He invites us to serve because he is up to great good in our world and he wants us to join him in the midst of it. He wants us to be with him where he is.

Take a moment for self-examination today. What motivates your serving: love or fear? How can you open yourself up to God’s love today and let him drive fear from your heart?

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