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Religion Column – Perspiration or inspiration?

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

When will you be motivated enough to take out the garbage?” This is, for many of us the quintessential question for, in one stroke, it addresses the many conditions of our motivations; whether we be adult or child.

Albeit domestic activities are important to relationship harmony, the truly greater emphasis is upon our societal relationships. From relatives to employers; from social settings to internal relations, our active actions directly influence who we are and how we live. Volumes of tomes have been written and gallons of ink spent in the slippery exercise of what makes us “move,” both as a whole and individually. The greatest example of the futility of this motivator exercise is the several millennia which have passed with no concrete solutions. Our variableness is quite staggering.

Regrettably, while various vocal pundits have suggested copious amounts of supposed answers, our world wallows in the various failures of their descriptions. Distilling down the often-spurious, we are left with only two essential motivators. These are perspiration and inspiration. While the two may be seen in a single instant to be interrelated, the only necessity is a greater understanding of their distinct properties.

Physiologically, when we perspire, we are under some level of stress. Often, this has to do with an exertion of some sort. Our quite natural understanding is the physical; as we experience labored breath, an increased heart rate, the dilation of our blood vessels and beads of water profuse from our pores.

Yet, in a stressed emotional state, lacking physical exertion, these same indicators may appear.

For much of the Christian Old Testament, much of what is written there is about perspiration. Frequently, we are told to “fear God” or fear “the wrath of God.” Here, there are numerous stories of destruction, of death and frequent plagues stemming from our wrath-full God. The Prophets tell us of what happens to those who do not obey and follow the Scriptures. This was the Covenant with Israel. Surely, the message. “to obey,” is the common theme found there.

However, the motivation in the New Covenant is quite different. Jesus tells us that we are not “strangers,” but “friends.” In order for us to have eternal life, we are told He has come to die for our sins, and what we need to do is repent and follow Him. Yes, we do see our Lord as an angry Son of God, as in the Wilderness when Jesus rebukes the Devil for the numerous temptations.

Yet, when He is betrayed, there is compassion heaped upon the betrayer, given by love. Even during the Passion, when Jesus is thrice denied by Saint Peter, there is compassion, given by love. In Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, there is compassion, given to us by love.

Thus, we see essential motivations. No matter at what level we conduct our lives, the single biggest stimulus is our ability to give of ourselves through fear, or out of love. Some of us may do only what we have to do; as we furnish the minimum of what is sought from us out of the fear of what will happen if we do not.

Others are motivated to give so much more. The truly inspired do not hold anything back in their love for Jesus Christ and God, the Father, as directed by the Holy Spirit. The believing Christians are inspired by the Word of the Savior and the message of Salvation; for all of their motivations rest with Him and His love.

It is about our spiritual choices. Either we fear God, or we love Him. Either we exude perspiration, or inspiration.