2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Paul was constrained, controlled, driven by the love of Jesus Christ—that is to say, the love that Christ has for him and for the Church. How do I know that this is Christ’s love for His people rather than Paul’s love for Christ? Largely because as Paul continues to unfold his meaning in v.14-15 he centers on the death of Jesus—which is Christ’s love in climactic act (1 Jn 3:16, 4:10, etc).
Like a tree forever bowed down by a hurricane, or hot wax conformed to the mold of a stamp, Paul’s mind and heart have been indelibly marked by the love of Christ poured out on the cross. Paul’s whole being has been arrested by the truth that Christ—in love—died for all, therefore it is as though all have died. And Christ’s death of love was so that those who are now spiritually alive because of His death might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who in love died for them and was raised.
I think that last part explains the “compelled” or “controlled” element. Christ’s love for us is to die and rise for our sake in order that we might live for Him…..
A quick side note on that….I am not saying that Christ’s love binds us to obey in fulfillment of the “debtor’s ethic,” as if He turns around and says, “look what I did for you, now what will you do for me” No, not at all. Rather, saying that Christ’s love for us causes us to live for Him is just another way of saying that His love for us mercifully draws our whole being into consent with the purposes of reality, into alignment with the path of our greatest joy. We were created to find our deepest gladness in our love-born obedience to the heart of God in Christ…..by enabling us to live “for Him,” Jesus is harmonizing us to the song that our redeemed souls thrill to sing.
Anyway, back to the text—
Christ’s love for us enables us to live for Him. Because of this, Paul says that he no longer regards anyone merely with physical eyes (v.16). Instead he sees the world in light of Christ’s love, divided into those who are part of the New Creation—those who are reconciled to God in Christ by His love—and those who are still in the Old Creation, still unreconciled to their God.
The love of Christ constrains Paul, then, to be an ambassador from Reconciliation to Un-Reconciliation, from New Creation to Old Creation, from Fellowship With God to Opposition to God. His life, spent in love to call the unreconciled into fellowship with the living God through the person and work of the crucified and risen Christ, is what it looks like for Paul to be constrained, controlled, compelled by the love of Christ.
May we, like Paul, be joyfully constrained by the reconciling love of our Savior, and may our Father give us wisdom and grace to live out conformity to that love in each of our given contexts…