For the love of Christ compels us…
Paul, 2 Corinthians 5
This is usually the blog post where I make some kind of ridiculous New Year’s resolutions that I’ll supposedly keep all year. Like last year’s no Mountain Dew resolution. That one lasted all of six weeks, I think. I thought about forgoing the whole thing this year and save myself the disappointment. But that’s the way of the coward. So this year, I decided to up the ante a little bit. No weight loss resolutions. No list of things I hope to accomplish. No index of bad habits to cut out.
Instead, I’m keeping it simple with one resolution:
In 2008, I resolve to only do that which is compelled by the love of Christ.
Yeah, I know. Like I said, upping the ante.
I have Paul to blame for all of this. I did some serious reflection about six weeks ago about the nature of ministry and my own theology regarding it. Paul’s comments re: his ministry of reconciliation have always been foundational for me, so I took a look back at 2 Corinthians 5. That’s when I came across this little phrase that stopped me in my tracks. In verse 14, as he writes to explain to the Corinthians why he does the things he does, Paul says it succinctly: “For the love of Christ compels us…”. A few other translations say “the love of Christ controls us.” The word literally means that Christ’s love has claimed us, that we have become sacred space for Christ’s love to take root. I love how the Message translates verses 12-14:
We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.
What would my life look like if I took these words seriously? What if His love had the first and last word in everything I did? What if every word, every thought, every act was compelled by the love of Christ? I find that my actions are compelled by a variety of motives: fear, duty, pride, ignorance, apathy…I could go on. But what if the love of Christ was my primary motivation? What would my life look like?
I have no idea what the answer to that question would be, but I’m ready to try and find out.
I understand that this will be an incredibly difficult task and I’m not deluded enough to think that I won’t struggle mightily here. But I’m hoping this will draw me nearer to the heart of Christ and I’d invite any of you to join me. As many of you know, I could certainly use some accountability when it comes to being a more loving person!
Whatever your resolutions, I pray that you would experience the love of Christ more fully in 2008. May Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians be our prayer for one another:
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.