Trying to Impress Her
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition . . . Philippians 1:15-17
My wife and I first met one summer, just out of high school, when we were both counselors at a Christian camp. For me, it was love at first sight. For her, well, it was not. Wanting desperately to impress her, I’d have done anything. I knew she was a pastor’s daughter and a good Christian girl, so I poured myself into being a good counselor and lifeguard . . . when she was watching. I would have signed up to be a missionary to some third world country if I’d have thought it would sway her opinion of me. I was an idiot, but I was an idiot in love, and I’d have done anything to improve my standing in her eyes. Being a counselor and lifeguard were good things, but I was obviously doing them for selfish reasons. I had ulterior motives that had nothing to do with the good of the kids in my care. I pretended to live for God while simply living for me.
This is similar to the scenario described by Paul in today’s passage. In it, he referred to those who preached the gospel out of authentic love, contrasting them with those who do it out of selfish ambition. Some, Paul said, pretended to be followers of Christ, while simply seeking and promoting themselves.
It’s easy to spot the obvious fakes. Those charlatan preachers on TV who continually beg for money so they can buy a private jet are clearly using Christianity only for themselves. They may not see it, but the rest of us can.
It’s not always so obvious though. There are a lot of us who claim to follow Christ, while still only seeking ourselves. We’d say we’re not trying to take advantage of God for our own purposes, yet our faith is something we want others to know about, without it ever really affecting our daily decisions. Of course I believe in God . . . But we still live the way we want, pursuing our will above all.
Being an authentic Christian means that we live what we claim to believe. True faith means believing in God and following his will because we love him and because it’s the right thing to do. Using religion for our own purposes, like trying to impress a girl, is self-serving. True faith means abandoning our way to follow God, choosing what’s right, while loving those he’s put in our path.