Why Should We Do the Right Thing?

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.

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  1. Carlos Lopez on November 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Agree, excellent post!.
    That´s the moment when you turn from doing the right thing because of fear and change it to do it because of love. You forget the rules and you do the right because you want to please Him. I had that process too.
    But… as christians we have to be careful because then, maybe because of that tradition of “reward”, somehow in our unconsciousness at last make us think that we dont do the right because of the reward, but because we behave and do the right then we deserve all the good for us… and when you go through a hard time you could be disappointed…

  2. Joy Eggerichs on November 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Isn’t it weird what heart break can do to our theology, love and reverence for God?

    Love your contemplating…

  3. Jessica on November 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

    The question I have been wrestling with is how can I get to that point of “obsession” without having to experience heartbreak or tragedy?

    I grew up going to church 3 times a week minimum. I went to a Christian school for 6th-12th grade where I had lots of Bible classes. I know a lot about grace, justification, sanctification, etc. but like you mentioned in your post, I don’t feel I’ve reached the point where my right actions are a result of the overflow of love that I have towards God. There is still a part of me that is stuck in a “performance-based acceptance” mentality (partially due to some borderline-legalism in the church I grew up in).

    I hear countless stories of those who have run from God only to reach some “rock bottom” point and be brought back to Him as they readily embrace the grace He offers. But for someone like me who never had that “running from God” period and who hasn’t had any huge regrets or tragedies in my life, how can I get that same passion? I don’t want to wish for God to bring me tragedy or heartbreak just so I can draw closer to Him but sometimes I think maybe that’s the only way.

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