Out of these four chapters, 2 Corinthians 5 is definitely my favorite. I found myself underlining almost everything in the chapter. Though there is much here that I could talk about, I would like to focus in on just seven words in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us…” I have preached sermons on these seven words and I have tried to make these seven words the focus of my ministry for 26 years.
What is Paul talking about here? I think it is important to be clear about what Paul is not talking about. He is not talking about our love for Christ or our love for others. He is speaking about Christ’s love for us. That is very important to grasp because our love for Christ runs sometimes hot, sometimes cold, and sometimes lukewarm. Furthermore, our love for people is variable as well. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to love one another at times. However, Christ’s love for us, demonstrated in his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and present intercession at the right hand of God, is constant, complete, and continuing for all eternity.
What kind of love does Christ have for us? It is agape. It is a love for which a new word had to be created to describe it. It is the kind of love that is distinctively God’s love. Agape is unconditional. Christ loves us, not because of anything in us, but because it is his nature to love us. In fact, agape is an “in spite of” kind of love. Christ loves us in spite of what we do, what we think, and who we are at times.
A little boy once asked his father after he was punished for some wrongdoing, “Dad, do you love me even when I’m bad?” That is the ultimate question is it not? Is there someone who loves us even when we do wrong? Is there a love that even reaches down into the pit of our self-centered, messed up lives, to rescue us? The answer in Jesus Christ is a resounding “Yes!”
I like the way C. S. Lewis described this love in his book, The Four Loves,
God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creature in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing—or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God—the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.
What does this love of Christ compel us to do? In short, I think the answer to that question is that the love of Christ compels us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill what Jesus said are the two great commandments:
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)
Here we find ourselves at the very heart of Christianity. However, it is important that we keep these loves in their proper order. God’s love for us in Christ comes first, and that is what compels our love for him and for one another.