When I have apologetics conversations with myself–tell me I’m not the only one who has these–the idea of having an innate conviction to do the right thing and knowing what the right thing is often comes up, in my conversation, with myself. This thought helps prove the existence of an absolute and ultimately the existence of God. Boom, my Christian side wins. But not exactly. More like, my monotheistic side wins.
My Christian side wins when I ask why I do the right thing. Most religions have systems of rules and rewards: follow the rules, you get the reward. Christianity represents the only world religion in which reward can not be earned: follow the rules, you get the reward. Don’t follow the rules, you get the reward. So why follow the rules? Why do the right thing?
For years my answer to this question was this: I do the right thing because it is clearly laid out in scripture how to do the right thing and that we are to do the right thing because the right thing brings us in a closer relationship with God and being in a closer relationship with God helps us make the right decisions and be just overall happier than if we were consistently doing the wrong thing.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know about grace. I knew about grace. I loved grace. It’s one of the bolded words in my memory as a preacher’s kid who spent just as much time at church as she did at home. The problem with my motive above was that I wasn’t obsessed yet. I didn’t get doing the right thing out of an overflow of my obsession with this God that could do such radical, against-human-nature type stuff.
Once that started to kick in (somewhere around the time of my first real heartbreak) and I began to let God, Jesus and the concept of the cross expand beyond my sunday-school walls, the right thing was the best way I could think of to say “I love you.” It was even better than saying, “I love you.” And I trust in that motivator much more than when I motivated myself.