Please accept this in the spirit of love and concern it was written, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are reports that you are unrepentant over your original comments: “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…”
The statement that you and your husband were standing by what you said came about two months ago, but I only just came across the news myself. The original comments had left me pondering just how to respond; I can know something is so wrong, but I feel that I am up against a mindset that is convinced it is hearing the voice of God telling them to pursue their own happiness and feel good about all that they do to achieve that. An easy response is to say “atheists often say that our desire to be charitable Christians and help others is not truly altruistic since it makes us feel happy and therefore it is inherently just us finding pleasure in giving, and you’ve just played into their hands” but we as a church should not be concerned with criticism from cynics like that.
No, I’ve come to realise that you actually may well be hearing a voice, and it speaks softly into your life that all you’re doing is just so right, but the question is: whose voice is it?
I shall presume you know of the account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by Satan. Satan tried in three ways to tempt Jesus. Tempt him to do what? Obviously, he was attempting to get him to disobey the will of God and so sin against God. What were these sins he tempted him to do? Knowing Jesus was hungry, he said that Jesus should make the stones into bread, then that he should test God by trying to harm himself in order to avail of God’s protection, then he offered him power and dominion over other peoples on the Earth. Jesus rebuked him by simply answering from his knowledge of the scriptures each time.
Let me offer a paraphrase of what Satan said to him (since I believe the actual discourse was longer than we have recorded in Matthew): “God wouldn’t want you to suffer like other humans who have no faith in him! He won’t wish to see you go hungry, so he gave you the power to command stones into bread to feed yourself. Go ahead! It’s what he would want you to do. He’d also allow you to enter into many dangers but with a surety that he will protect you at all times. You’ll come to no harm. He’s almost wanting to be tested by you, just ask him for your heart’s desire while you pursue your dreams and he’ll do it, no quibble. And hey, what if you could have untold wealth and power? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? You could have so much influence in the world, do so much good for others, if only you’d take advantage of that power you have within you and inherit all he intends for you, right here and now.”
Now my knowledge of Jesus’ own words throughout his ministry were that he wished for us to take up our cross, deny ourselves, count our family and our lives as nothing in comparison to our devotion to him, love others for no other reason than he commanded us and for us to show him within us, that others would know we were his disciples. Satan’s words to Jesus sounded fine and dandy, but Jesus had a higher calling, a path to follow where he would be a servant and not think of his own happiness and comfort, and that he would beckon us all to follow his example.
So again, Victoria, in all honesty and by the love of Jesus, ask yourself whose voice you are hearing when you hear that you should pursue your own ends in this life and just be happy? Better still, read through the gospels and highlight all of Jesus’ commands. ALL of them, not just the tiny snippets that fit your worldview, since this is a travesty that all of us are unfortunately capable of doing. Weigh up all that he said to his disciples and then decide which way he would have us live. My genuine concern is that in saying you follow him, you actually may be blindly following a different path, while leading others who listen to you. Is it your way, my way, or someone else’s way? No, it should just be his way!
Lean not on your own understanding.
Grace be with you.