We should all be driven by the love of God

Adam Harbinson
Adam Harbinson

I was guest at a prayer breakfast last week at which the speaker was Sir Nigel Hamilton, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

He talked little about his work, more about his connection with Ulster Rugby, and a lot about the importance of his faith and how his faith informed his attitude to every aspect of his life: his family, his social world, and of course his work as a senior civil servant.

And all quite interesting.

But then he turned the question to his listeners, when he asked: ‘What drives you?’

Sir Nigel went on to develop the question by posing a number of implied options: is it the need for recognition, or acceptance, or status, or is it a desire for money and power?

I have had some experience of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and can see that it asks much the same questions.

CBT therapists remind us that as infants we tend to do everything to please those around us. Whatever it takes to make them smile, or give us what we want, we will do it, and that sets the pattern for our lives.

Maybe, but from the Christian perspective I prefer Sir Nigel’s suggested answer: that we are driven, or should be driven, by the love of Christ.

That’s the difference between a dry and dusty life of legalism – where your life is governed by the perceived need to observe the law – and the model that Jesus brought us.

That’s why he said: ‘I give you a new law, love one another.’

C H Spurgeon talked about this in one of his best-selling books, All Of Grace.

He argued that while Jesus gave us this new law, what he was really doing was shifting the motivation to observe the law from fear to love.

For example, the eighth commandment that Moses gave us is: ‘Do not steal!’ The motivation was fear of punishment if you break that law, and if you are in any doubt, read the scary 28th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy to see the rules of blessings and curses that applied in those days.

However, the Jesus model is different. Because we understand how much we are loved by God, and because we know how much our neighbours are loved by God, how could we possibly steal from them if we truly live lives of love?

And the reason is – as set out in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church – that it is the love of Christ that ‘constrains’ us, and because of that we are not ruled by fear, for ‘... perfect love casts out all fear’.

I couldn’t help reminding the speaker that morning of Jack Frost, founder of the Shiloh Place.

It was he who likened the law of love to breathing: receive the Father’s love ... breathe it in, and pass it on ... breathe it out.

Isn’t that the essence of simplicity?

Adam welcomes comments on his weekly Times column.

Write to him c/o the Larne Times, 8 Dunluce Street, Larne, BT40 1JG or email him - adamharbinson@gmail.com