I´ve heard two stories lately with a common theme:
Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick tells a story from his own childhood days. His father had said to his mother, upon leaving the house one Saturday in the morning hours: "Tell Harry that he can cut the grass today, if he feels like it." Then, halfway down the walk, his father turned once more to add: "And tell Harry that he had better feel like it."
A similar story:
A new elementary school was raising the American flag for the first time. To make the day special, they had invited a Marine Corps color guard to come out and perform the duty for them. The day before the ceremony, the Marine in charge of the unit called to confirm directions to the school. After doing so, he was asked by the school secretary whether he was sending Marines who like children. There was a brief pause on the other end of the line before the man replied, "Ma´am, if I tell them to like children, they will like children."
Both of those stories emphasize the point that there is a big difference between doing something and wanting (or liking) to do it. And, as much as a father or a Marine sergeant may command someone to enjoy what they´re doing, it´s just not that simple!
I wish that it was! I can make Christians attend worship, but what I really desire is for them to WANT to attend worship. I can make Christians give more, but what I really desire to for them to WANT to give more. I can make Christians serve in a variety of capacities, but what I really desire is for them to WANT to serve more. It´s so much harder to change what people want to do than it is to change what they do.
But it´s not just hard to change it in others -- it´s hard to make that change in my own life as well. I often find myself thinking that I need to pray more, study more, visit more, when what I´d really, really like to find such joy in those things that I WANT to do them more.
When you peel away the outer layers of Jesus´ Sermon on the Mount and get to the core of what Jesus is saying, this is the principle you find. Jesus doesn´t just want followers who don´t murder; he wants his followers to WANT to live in love. He doesn´t just want followers who don´t commit adultery; he wants his followers to WANT to be people of commitment and integrity. He doesn´t want followers who merely DO the right thing; he wants followers who WANT to do the right thing. He doesn´t just want the actions; he wants the heart.
"Now the purpose of the comamndment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith." (I Timothy 1:5)
I continue to struggle with how to change people´s hearts. I continue to struggle with how to change my own heart. May we seek to submit ourselves to the only One who can shape and mold us into what we were made to be.