15 April, 2024

Obeying Regardless of the Consequences

by | 30 January, 2023 | 2 comments

By Jim Nieman 

In an article* for Christian Standard from 1967, Christian church theologian Jack Cottrell, who died in September 2022, contended that—and this is a paraphrase—the fear that something bad will happen to you if you do something wrong, or the expectation that something good will happen to you if you don’t do something wrong (or if you do something right), is not the way a Christian should live.  

He referred to this approach to life as the “motivation of consequence.”  

Cottrell wrote, “To obey the law simply out of regard for the consequences [of our actions] is legalistic self-love,” and that it effectively “reverses Romans 3:28.”  

Of course, Romans 3:28 says, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” 

A Christian is—or should be—motivated by gratitude and love, not by fear or greed. A Christian delights in the law and wants to obey it (or, at least, they should).  

One line from Cottrell’s essay stands out: “The ultimate test of Christian faith and love is the willingness to obey regardless of the consequences.” 

That’s why we’re all here, around this table—because Christ loved his Father and obeyed him in dying on the cross. 

In the garden, just prior to his arrest, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, New American Standard Bible). 

Jesus was motivated to obey because of his love for his Father. And he was motivated by his love for us.  

Jesus set an example for all of us—not just in his death on the cross, but also by the way he lived his entire life.  

We remember Jesus Christ—his life, his death, his resurrection, and the promise we have of eternal life—just now as we partake of these emblems: the bread representing his body, and the fruit of the vine representing his blood shed for our sins. 

And why do we do this? We are not motivated by the consequence of doing it or not doing it. Instead, we do it because we love our Savior and our God. 

Prayer: Help us refrain from selfishness, but to live our lives in faithful obedience born of your love for us and our love for you. 

Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard. 

*Jack Cottrell, “In Defense of the Gospel,” Christian Standard, January 21, 1967, pp. 7-8. 

2 Comments

  1. Daniel

    Very good meditation this week.

    I would like to obtain a copy of Cottrell’s article mentioned.

  2. Bob

    Jim. Thank you. I’m going to use this. I’d like to get a copy of that essay. Are there archives? Thank you. God bless you.

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