As I watched the bad guy, Kylo Ren, deal with his inner struggle and mixed up emotions, I thought about my own inner struggles.
On the outside things are going pretty well. God has blessed my congregation with growth. I have my own blog. I write a weekly column in three newspapers. After just two months, my first book is going into its second printing.
All of those outlets allow me the veneer of godliness. I do each to help others see the treachery of their sin and the treasure of God’s forgiveness. I do them to God’s glory.
When I honestly look deep into my heart, I also see I do it so people like me. I do it to get one more “like” on Facebook and one more follower on Twitter. I do it so one more person can tell me what a great pastor I am. I do it to feed an inner need to be accepted.
Don’t get me wrong. I do truly want to glorify God. I want to share the message of his love with as many people as I can. But my motivation is stained with selfishness. So much so that sometimes I wonder if I should stop writing all together. Then I think, “But no. God has given me the opportunity to share the gospel with people. I can’t stop.”
Like I said, I’m a mixed up mess.
How about you? We so easily claim the high road. “I am publicly posting problems in my church on Facebook because of righteous indignation – out of love for God and his Word.” “I am confronting my husband with his failings because I want to help him.” “I am writing this blog to help others.” Are you sure selfishness, bitterness or pride have not stained your motivation? Are you trying to humbly help others or to just show you’re right and their wrong?
In our marriages, in our churches, on the internet we convince ourselves our motivation is pure. Our anger is righteous. We are on the high road.
Yet only one has walked the high road. Only one can claim true righteous anger. Only one was never stained by sin. And I am not he. You are not he.
We are all a mixed up mess of emotions and motivations. Let’s remember that as we struggle to serve our Savior. Do the dirty work of looking deep into your heart. Fight against the pride and anger and bitterness. Ask yourself often, “Why am I doing what I am doing? Why am I saying what I am saying?”
And then follow the example of another mixed up mess – the Apostle Paul. As he faced his own inner struggle he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).
Paul’s answer is our hope and help as we humbly struggle with our mixed up mess of emotions and motivations: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
In Christ, we are free and forgiven. Our sin-stained service is washed clean in his blood. One day we will be liberated from our mixed up motivations, but not yet.
For now we are still a mixed up mess.