The Art of Neighboring. For the last few years I have been interested in the ideas of place, location, and Jesus' call to be good neighbors, and this interest has only intensified recently as we are now home-owners. This book has been incredibly helpful in exploring the many facets of this topic, but the authors have included a profound section on our motives as we engage with our neighbors.
They make an insightful distinction between ulterior motives and ultimate motives. They argue that ulterior motives are intentionally kept concealed and are often manipulative, while an ultimate goal is an eventual point or a longed-for destination. Thus, "the ulterior motive in good neighboring must never be to share the gospel. But the ultimate motive is just that - to share the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives." It's a subtle, nuanced difference, but it's significant. Even within the realm of "relational evangelism," we see Christians only engage with others with the goal of sharing the gospel. They appear friendly and appear to be interested in forming a relationship with another, but there lies a hidden agenda just below the surface.
In our efforts to connect with and love our neighbors, we must not interact with the hidden, concealed, and ulterior agenda of trying to share the gospel with them. As the authors say, "We don't love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted." As disciples of Christ, we simply love our neighbors - with no strings attached. Of course, as people who love Jesus and believe that his way is the best possible way of living, we hope that there will one day be the opportunity to share our faith. But the call of Jesus is to love our neighbor, knowing that even if we never have the opportunity to share the gospel, we have still lived faithfully. "We are called to love people - period. Whether those people ever take any steps toward God is beside the point. We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return."