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Constrained by Christ’s Love

August 22nd, 2012

For Christ’s love constrains us…

2 Corinthians 5:14

The Christian faith must always return, from wherever it wanders off to, to the love of God in Christ – and we wander off in many directions, whether doctrinal issues, social concerns, or matters of fellowship and obedience. Our faith is not founded upon philosophical truth as an objective reality all its own, separated from any real act of sacrifice proving itself. Quite the opposite! Our faith is founded upon the love of God acted out on Calvary.

The many facets of the work of Christ are each important – His teaching, His Resurrection, His Ascension, His Intercession for us before the Father. We cannot deny any of these and say we have retained biblical Christianity. Yet the crucifixion is that signal event that reveals His love like no other act. The thought of the sinless Son of God taking on our guilt and shame and dying for us, in our place, should move us, and constrain us to the task of sharing this love with others.

There is another reason to be disappointed in more modern English translations – perhaps not with the translations themselves but with the poor quality of the English we speak today. Such words as “wrought” – the proper translation for the Greek word in 2 Cor. 4:5, today more commonly translated “made” (NIV) or “prepared” (NASB) – and “constrains” – now usually translated “compels” (NIV) or “controls” (NASB), better but still a bit awkward sounding – are difficult concepts to convey in today’s English. Our language is losing its context for consideration of the more profound influences in life, dumbing itself down to focus on the self-centeredness of our current generation. I suppose the devil would be delighted if language could not express any thoughts beyond me, mine, and I want. God and others who shape us profoundly are being reduced to mere influences rather than “Wroughters” and “Constrainers.”

The Apostle wrote in the verse before that this love had almost driven him out of his mind, or it seemed so to others, Festus’ words a case in point (Acts 24:26). J. B. Phillips captured the thoughts here better than others, in my opinion.

All our persuading of men, then, is with this solemn fear of God in our minds. What we are is utterly plain to God—and I hope to your consciences as well…If we have been “mad” it was for God’s glory; if we are perfectly sane it is for your benefit. At any rate there has been no selfish motive. The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. We look at it like this: if one died for all men then, in a sense, they all died, and his purpose in dying for them is that their lives should now be no longer lived for themselves but for him who died and rose again for them.

The idea of the original is that the work of Christ on the cross, the whole idea of Him leaving heaven to die on its wooden beams in a public execution for those of us who can scarcely grasp its significance, this love when properly considered has the power in its objective influence alone to force us to commit, to tie us down in our hearts, and to tether us in our choices to where we have no other option but to obey and live for Him and share His love with others. This is the idea of constrain. It is the gift that awakens us from our apathy and even from our “burned-outed-ness,” ever calling us to get back into the game of loving others in His name.

A mother’s love is similar, that its nature has an effect on our hearts and children are prone to love their mothers fiercely even when they can scarcely understand anything else in life. But the love of Christ goes even beyond this – far, far beyond it – for in Christ is not only His objective example but an inward living witness. This love speaks to our hearts and transforms them by His Spirit. We cannot begin to explain all of this other than with the idea of transformation – our souls being shaped into the image of the Crucified One’s.

All the power of God is directed to achieve this in our hearts, and the wisest of us sees this and let’s God bend him into the image He plans. Love, real love, is a maddening thing or else it is not love. Love causes us to do for another person what would be considered insane to do in the name of self-interest alone. Love is beyond all reasoning, and has a way of thinking all its own, an economy not based on human society or any logic but on the sheer benefit for another, regardless of what it does to us.

This love of God in Christ directed toward us shapes our sympathies and redirects our thoughts and inspires our actions for others. Beware of any “lover” who is too concerned with the cost of his love.

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