I've had a couple questions on my mind lately.
First, the personal one: Do you follow God out of fear (and I don't mean respect; I mean actual fear of what will happen if you don't), or because you want to receive the blessings that come from following him, or do you follow him out of love? Or is there some other reason?
Second, the theoretical/theological one: Does a person's motivation for following God matter? To put it another way, does God care why we follow him, or does he just want us to follow him regardless of why we do it?
As a parent, I want my children to obey me because of the love and trust in our relationship, not because they are scared of what I'll do to them if they don't or because they want a reward for obedience. I know some may disagree with this and say that even if a child is obeying because of punishments or rewards, at least they're being obedient. So how does that translate to a person's relationship with God, especially in light of the fact that a child's rudimentary concept of God is formed through the parent-child relationship? I think the "why" really matters, and obeying out of fear or in pursuit of a reward isn't what I want for my children-- not in our relationship, and not in their relationship with God either.
But this isn't a post about parenting, per se; that's just an illustration of the bigger point, which is: do the reasons we follow and obey God matter to him, or is the point to just follow?
My gut tells me that the "why" does matter. When we say the "why" isn't important, I think it can open the doors to tactics like terrifying people with fire-and-brimstone messages or convincing people that following God means they'll receive lots of material blessings. But I also think that regardless of motivation, he will meet us where we are. And then, if we are motivated by fear (or anything other than love, really), maybe through the relationship, God's love will change our motivation. I am reminded of 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."
What do you think?