Thursday, May 29, 2008

Motives - The Deal Breaker in Decision Making

The concept of "motives" has stood as the capstone to the process of Christian decision making. Even in my Navigator days, you could follow the “Five Steps” to good decisions, but if the motives were bad, then the whole enterprise would be spoiled.

One example is when I was deciding to go to the mission field. I was trying to decide where to go. I was torn between Iceland, Paris (working with immigrant Moslems) or the Middle East. I had spent months in the Middle East, but had also spent at least a week in the other two places.

I can remember several Christian friends (and the mission boards themselves) asking me, “What are you motives for going to each of these places?” Without getting into the complicated details, I will summarize that my motive for going to Iceland, was that I had a passion for the country. I loved the geographic situation, including the glaciers, ocean, geysers and hot spring. But I also had a passion for the lifestyle, culture and people.

I remember when I told a director of a mission board that those were my motives for wanting to go to Iceland, he immediately told me that those were “not the right motives and I would fail there.” I, unfortunately, believed him.

Dualistic thinking leads us to two errors when we consider motives. The first one is separating “good” from “bad” motives along the same Dualistic lines as were present during the Dark Ages. Anything that comes from our physical selves (our minds, taste, desires, etc) is bad. Anything that comes from the “spiritual” (wanting to save souls, wanting to know God better, wanting to be a better Christian, etc.) was good. So the fact that I loved snow, mountains, sea (all the things that I enjoy where I now live) were “of the flesh” and thus bad. So if a decision had any influence from these “bad” motives, then these “bad” motives must be rejected.

As a result, and with great sadness, I told Greater European Mission that I would not be coming to Iceland, but going to the Middle East. I hated the Middle East, the flatness, the crowds, the heat . . . but I was concerned about the souls of Muslims. So that was a “good” motive.

The second error that Dualism gives us about motives is the concept of “pure motives.” This comes from Dualism, because Dualistic Christianity does not understand the depths of the Fall of Adam. They think the Fall only effects the, very fluid, spirit. Thus, someone could become a Christian and . . . presto! . . . over night be a new person. They believe that us, born again, Christians can do things out of pure motives.

But the real (non-Dualistic) view is that our bodies, including our brains, are very important and does not change very easily. People who were abused as a child or who had psychotic (genetic) tendencies . . . well their thoughts and behavior can change but very, very slowly. Why? Because the brain changes very, very slowly.

As a monist, I know that we are far more deeply fallen (because of this physical component) than what I use to think. I honestly don’t think there has been a single person since Adam and Eve who did anything out of pure motives. There is always a mixture between evil, amoral and good motives with every choice. However, Evangelicals tend to cover up the bad motives.

I will give a brutally honest and albeit extreme, example.

I was in an intense Navigator training center. Ron was one of the Nav guys, but he was gay. Of course he would never, ever have admitted he was gay at the time, but us guys (who shared a house with him) had that instinct. Since then he has come out of the closet.

Anyway, Ron was very much in love with Mike (who wasn’t gay . . . as far as I know).

Ron felt God leading him, to ask Mike to “disciple him.” On the surface this sounded wonderful. The Nav staff guy thought it was wonderful. Ron said it was a “God thing.” But looking back, I would say that 90% of his motives were to enter a relationship (any kind of relationship . . . including a disciple-disciple maker relationship . . . would suffice) with Mike.

So every decision that we make will be like a pot a beef stew. Chunks of bad motives, good motives, neutral motives, all blended together. So, we fool ourselves when we think that we are making the correct decision because we are doing it out of “pure motives.”

The truth is, when we make most of our decisions, we are deciding to do what we want to do (regardless of the motives) and then scramble to find “spiritual” cover for our actions. We just need to come clean with the whole motive thing and then the decisions would be far less taxing. We also need to recognize that a non-Dualistic God does care about what we want. If I love mountains, then go for it! I don’t have to choose things I hate just to be sure that I’m doing it with pure motives.

More later. I will also come back and proof-read the things above I wrote in haste.


nora said...

Great blog! Thanks for your honesty.

So much of what you said about deciding where to serve on the mission field resonated with me. I agonized over the decision. Everyone else had "a heart" for this, that or the other place. I just wanted to do Bible translation.

And then God spoke to me. :) He reminded me of what someone prayed over me once: Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, no matter where we go. That, and reading the Friesen book really freed me up to pick a place I thought I would thrive - because great friends were also headed there. And I could spend time in France learning French. Not pure, spiritual motives at all!

I share this with anyone I know who is deciding where to serve. Emmanuel. God with us. Wherever.

MJ said...

I remember being so jealous when I ran into a missionary who was serving in Austria (a personal dream). I asked, him, "How did God call you to Austria?"

He answered simply (because he had not been brainwashed like I had) and smiled, "Oh, I love the Alps. I just told the mission board that I wanted to go to Austria. Seemed like a no-brainer."