Throughout history, humans have been motivated to do dangerous things for heroic reasons. One recent example is Bridger Walker, a six-year-old boy who stepped between his younger sister and a neighbor’s charging German Shepherd. The dog’s owner was able to restrain the dog and call for emergency responders, but not before the dog latched onto Bridger’s face and left horrible gashes. The resulting two-hour surgery on Bridger’s face required ninety stitches. “Bridger, in his own words and without hesitation, declared: ‘If someone had to die, I thought it should be me,'” his parents wrote.
Great love motivated Bridger to action. Jesus expresses this sentiment most poignantly: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13
What does it mean to be motivated by love? The word motivated is an adjective that describes someone who is moved to action by something. For example, athletes are often motivated by a trophy to train. Actors are often motivated by fame to memorize a script.
Unlike these two examples, however, Christians are not primarily motivated by what they receive. Christians obey the commands of Jesus because of His great love for them. Jesus is the one who provides Christians with a reason. The action He gives us the desire to do is to love others.
Loving others is much easier to read about in a blog post than to show on an abortion facility’s sidewalk.
I remember standing outside our city’s abortion center a couple of years ago when a man exited without his girlfriend and unborn baby. As he was going down the sidewalk toward his car, I walked alongside him and pleaded with him to go back in and save his baby and lovingly lead his wife. He turned and yelled in my face with such guttural hatred that I could almost see the rage spewing from his eyes. I was stunned. Thankfully, the Lord helped me to lovingly and clearly call him to repentance and offer hope, but he turned away and rejected the offer of help.
The least loving action you can do for unborn children is to stay silent while they’re being taken into an abortion facility. The least loving words you can say to abortion-minded men and women are those that affirm their intentions, minimize their sin, and ignore their true needs. Unborn babies need someone to stand up for them. Abortion-minded men or women need to be lovingly called to repentance, offered words of Gospel hope, and shown the resources available to them through our churches and partner pregnancy centers. To show true love is to, as Jude 1:22-23 says: “save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
And yet, when we speak words of love, we are often met with hatred or indifference. It’s super easy to respond with unrighteous anger.
How can we be motivated by love?
There are four key steps Scripture gives to enable us to show the kind of love the Lord showed us in Christ, Bridger showed for his sister, and we must show on the sidewalk.
First, we must understand and meditate on the Gospel.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Do you want the love of Christ to control you? Do you want His love to so completely indwell you that you can’t help but love your enemies? Do you want your immediate reaction to hatred or indifference on the sidewalk to be one of love? You must fundamentally conclude that Jesus died for all, and that those who live through Him must not live for themselves but for their Savior.
One of the clearest statements of how the Gospel motivates the Christian to love is found in 1 John 4:9-11. The apostle writes, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Before you can be motivated by love, you must know how much God loves you in Christ. You must meditate deeply on how much you deserve God’s wrath. You must imbibe the fundamental truth that you HATED God. You must comprehend that you fully deserved God’s wrath for your sins, and you must remind yourself Jesus paid it all. You didn’t and couldn’t work hard enough to earn God’s favor, but Jesus did.
Do you deny yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow Jesus? Oh, how our hearts must long so much more to display His holy affection.
Second, we must pray for the Lord to move us to show sacrificial love.
Only the Lord can motivate broken people to show impossible love. The apostle Paul knew this – that’s why he wrote in Philippians 1:9-10, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Where else can you find the courage, boldness, and compassion to talk to an abortion-minded woman on the sidewalk? Who else can give the words of eternal hope? You must fall on your knees before you ever go out on the sidewalk and plead with the Lord for incredible love and tender compassion toward abortion-minded women and the people who are with them.
Our natural tendencies are frustration, anger, pride, or flattery. Only the Holy Spirit, given to Christians as the seal of their salvation, can promote these unnaturally holy desires in our hearts. You have the Holy Spirit if you’re a Christian. We must depend on His infinite power to do what He calls us to do.
When the Lord calls His people to love others, He gives the power, the desire, the ability, and the perfect example to all who ask Him. As Peter says in 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
Third, we must die to ourselves in everyday life.
Charles Spurgeon once said that he was prepared to die because he started every day by dying to himself and living to Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t always flashy, nor is it immediately fulfilling (though it often can be). The simple spiritual disciplines and the ordinary means of grace are the foundation for knowing Christ, and they are the foundation of being motivated by love.
Jesus said to His followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Like Bridger was motivated by love to save his sister, Christians must be motivated by love to serve one another.
Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Even the ones that are hard to love? Even when you don’t feel like it? Without the first two steps, this action would be impossible.
As Christians are commanded to love their fellow believers, the love they have for one another prepares them to love others. Notice the incredible pattern here. By cultivating a posture of love in places and times it isn’t noticed, you are conditioning your heart to have an automatic reaction. When you are confronted with hatred, you are rooted in God’s love for you, and you are ready to show love.
As you cultivate a heart posture of love in smaller moments, you will be prepared to demonstrate incredible Christlike love in more visible interactions, like on an abortion facility’s sidewalk.
Finally, we must see people as Jesus sees them.
Babies are made in God’s image. David says in Psalm 139 that he was knit together in his mother’s womb, and all babies are fearfully and wonderfully made. God sees every little boy and girl in their mothers’ wombs, even before pregnancy tests and ultrasounds can detect them. Jesus said, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) Jesus’ own prenatal experience in Mary’s womb shows that He was not an impersonal clump of cells, but a living human (Luke 1:41-44). Jesus received babies and children all throughout His ministry, and He clearly had tender compassion toward children of all ages. As sidewalk counselors, we must see unborn children as precious boys and girls made in the image of God and loved by their Creator. We must also see that they are people who are in terrible danger.
Abortion-minded women and their companions are also equally made in God’s image. Just like us, each of them has unique stories and life experiences that brought them to the abortion facility sidewalk. However, they are also choosing to commit a horrible sin.
The two primary heart postures we must cultivate are compassion and boldness.
Matthew describes Jesus in this way: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) On the sidewalk, we must see abortion-minded women and men as sheep without a shepherd. We must see that they are separated from God and need to be redeemed by the Good Shepherd. We must see them as people – not aliens, not throwaways, but human beings with souls. They are just like us. Many of them come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, many of them might not feel prepared to be mothers, and a few have been raped. On the sidewalk, you don’t know their stories. If you have the opportunity, always listen if they are willing to share. Never assume.
At the same time, abortion-minded women and their companions are sinners. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and abortion-minded women are about to commit the awful sin of murder – and not just murder, but the killing of a tiny, precious baby boy or girl. Those who accompany them are about to be accomplices in that sin. Many abortion-minded women do not care that the baby inside of them is a precious life, and many companions will shirk the responsibility to protect the baby. Some may say that they are Christians, but their actions reveal their hearts.
How does Jesus respond to sinners? Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) He perfectly loved people by exposing their sins and calling them to forsake their sins and follow Him.
Abortion-minded men and their companions have Satan’s lies embedded in their brains. They need a Savior, just as you and I do.
Unborn children need to be saved from the slaughter. Women and men just like us need to repent and be saved from sin. As Christians, we can be motivated by love because of the great love of God in Jesus, praying for and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, dying to ourselves, and seeing people as Jesus sees them. Like our Savior, let us compassionately and boldly save some by snatching them from the fire.
Want to learn more about how to get involved in sidewalk counseling ministry? Click here to learn more about our Voice for Life training.