If you’re driving down the southern California freeways, and all of the sudden see a spate of red lights flicker in front of you, you’re fairly safe in presuming one of two things just happened. Either there’s something in the road that people are trying to avoid, or they just noticed that there was a police car sitting on the side of the road. On the LA freeways, if there’s not traffic (which can be a rarity in itself), there’s a generally accepted principle to drive beyond the speed limit. However, seeing the police car there reinforces to drivers that they are in fact doing something illegal, and quickly motivates them to hit the brakes.
What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that as soon as the individuals are beyond the police officer’s view, they speed up again. They are only motivated to obey the rules when they think they might get in trouble for it. After that, they are back to their old ways of barreling down the highway.
As Christians, we often do the same thing. We know what we are doing is wrong, however, we are only motivated to stop when we think we might get in trouble for it. When that fear is removed, we are back to our old ways of doing things.
There are two ways to look at this. First, we should be reminded that we are never outside the watchful eye of our Lord. He keeps careful account and He disciplines those He loves (Prov. 3:12) so that we may be more like Him. Therefore, we rightly could always fear “getting in trouble” for doing wrong. However, it’s also worth noting that the mature Christian is motivated by a far deeper force – they are motivated by love. They do the right thing not because they are fearful of punishment, but because they do not desire to disappoint their Savior.
Fear and love can both be powerful motivators. As we grow in Christ, may we be increasingly motivated by love.