Have you ever been to a home and garden Show? They’re basically massive sales and marketing events. Businesses set up booths and run all kinds of contests and specials with the hopes that you’ll become a client. You’re constantly approached by nice people asking you questions like, “How would you like a free vacation to Hawaii?” or “How would you like a patio roof installed for free?” My first thought when I’m approached is, “What are you trying to get from me?” These folks aren’t offering these deals out of the goodness of their hearts, they have an agenda. They want me to join their vacation club for $3,000 a year or for me to purchase a $5000 patio roof. As much as I enjoy going to the occasional home and garden show, it’s funny, not one time did I ever think to myself, “Wow! These people really love me!”
The sad thing is this is exactly what much of Christian activity done in the name of love looks like to the world. Christians will give away free turkeys for Thanksgiving, hand out free hot dogs and bottled water at parks, shovel snow off driveways and walkways in neighborhoods, and hand out candy and presents for Halloween and Christmas. These are all kind things to do. The problem is most of the time when these things are done it’s for the purpose of getting people to visit and hopefully join one’s congregation. Just like the merchants at the home and garden show, there is an agenda attached. The kind deed does not stand alone; the doer is after something from the recipient. When the free turkeys, hot dogs, and water bottles are handed out and when those driveways are shoveled you better believe a flyer is handed out with the name of the group responsible along with an address and meeting times. What appeared to be love suddenly just turned out to be nothing more than marketing. It was nothing but a PR campaign done using Jesus’ name. This is why many groups refuse to be a part of anything for which they will not receive the bulk of the credit. Help another congregation with something they’re doing and receive no recognition? HA!
See, real love, God’s love, comes without an agenda. The moment a flyer or an attempt to get somebody to do something in return is attached to the act of kindness it ceases to be love. Now it’s either marketing, or worse, manipulation. Sadly, many Christians are so stuck on following their own agendas and doing their own thing that they have substituted the Holy Spirit with manipulation. They have their thing they want to build, their name they want to get out there, or their organization they want to increase so they’re already out of tune with God’s heart. And being that God isn’t in what they’re doing they have to lean on the flesh, their own strength, to achieve their desired results. So they turn to marketing and call it love. But they’re just another booth at the home and garden show and those who encounter them are left with a bad taste in their mouth.
Ever wonder why so much of the church in America is powerless? She stopped asking, “Father, what are you doing?” a long time ago. (I don’t think most ever were asking that.) Today, even when congregations do dare to ask Father what He is doing most have drawn up clear boundaries within which He must work. If He moves beyond those boundaries or moves contrary to our plans and agendas we immediately dismiss Him and return to our agendas. Few dare to actually do what He is doing in this hour. So, what do you do when you’re not doing what God is doing? First, you make it look like you are. And second, you lean entirely on your own strength to get anything done. You hand out turkeys and hot dogs with flyers.
A true act of kindness is done without blowing a trumpet. Christians sound a trumpet every time they proclaim “Look what my group did for you!” “MY CHURCH gave you that water bottle!” “MY CHURCH shoveled your driveway!” They have their reward right there. The folks saying, “Oh, that’s nice.” is their reward. Sadly, competition is one of the main motives for kindness we see displayed by congregations today. They want you to join their group, not that other one.
Real love comes without a thought or the need to draw attention to one’s self. Paul even wrote in 1Corinthians 13 that love does not boast. It doesn’t say, “Look what I did!” “Quick! Call the TV station and tell them about the nice thing we’re going to be doing this Saturday at 9 AM on Elm Street!” What a nightmare! Paul went on to say love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t ponder, “How can we promote ourselves?” “How can we get people to do what we want them to do?” It doesn’t use kindness to get something in return. See, genuine love is a reflection of God. But since most Christians think God is a big bragging showman who does stuff to get us to do what He wants, they act this way.
The truth is God is humble. How do I know? Jesus is the exact representation of God and look how He CHOSE to live while He walked among us. He wasn’t “God in disguise.” He was being who He is. He chose to be with the least in society because that’s where He likes to be. He also never gave to get anything from anybody. How many times did Jesus follow up with the people He healed? “Hey Peter, did you get that centurion’s contact information? We’ll probably want to follow up and invite Him to walk around with us once a week after he realizes I healed his daughter.” Jesus just gave of Himself and sought nothing in return. He didn’t even want people to go around blabbing about the miracles He performed. This is the face of love. This is the love that changes the world.
Genuine love comes without a hook. This is actually unfamiliar to many Christians because most live in a world built on expectations. “I’ll do this for you so you’ll do that for me.” I’ll call you up during the week to see how you’re doing so you’ll come to my Bible Study next Thursday. I’ll be your friend as long as you keep going to my church. I’ll volunteer to help with the children so you will make me a Sunday School Teacher next year. I will be a committed hard worker and agree with everything so you will make me a leader. Then we dare to turn around and say, “We’re family!” “We love one another!” That ain’t love folks! That is nothing like Jesus.
There are no hidden motives or angles behind real love. Real love doesn’t look for anything from another or use others for one’s own advantage. When we see Jesus for who He truly is and have a revelation of the affection Father has for us we begin to see agendas attached to love as the poisons they truly are.