Motivation for Discipleship

In the context of preparing for a retreat day I’m giving on Friday, I spent some time yesterday afternoon and evening reflecting on the motivation for discipleship.

The version of the Act of Contrition I was taught in my Catholic grade school said something like, “I’m sorry for my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pain of hell.” That is not a version that works for me. It makes it sound like what makes us follow Jesus is the desire and hope for future reward and avoidance of future punishment. Be good, follow the rules today becuase of what it will bring in the future. But that is not what it is about at all.

Shane Claiborne, in his book The Irresistible Revolution, about which I’ve written before, quotes Tony Campolo as saying, “Even if there were no heaven and there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?” And Claiborne’s response is: “I am more and more convinced each day,” he says, “that I would.”

In the words of St. Paul, “The love of Christ impels me.” What motivates discipleship is being in a deep love relationship with God now, a relationship and love out of which all of our actions flow. We don’t do good so that we can be happy with God later. Instead we do what we do because that is the only possible response of a being in a love relationship with God. It is the joy of that relationship now that motivates me.

The love of Christ impels me.