`Since . . . we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men. . . . For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all ... that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again' (2 Corinthians 5:11,14,15 NIV)
“THIS issue of The Officer contains a number of references to what may be regarded as the proper function of Salvation Army officers. The topics discussed have relevance to us all in whatever capacity we are currently engaged. However, a more vital issue is the motivation which prompted us to offer for service in the first instance. From that, there must follow the challenging question: has the purity of our motives been maintained?...,,
Paul declared that he was called to the work of proclaiming the gospel and he used the term 'ambassador' to describe the task in which he and his companions were engaged (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21). The apostle spoke of two motives for his mission: the fear of the Lord (v 11), and Christ's love (v 14). At first sight the two ideas may seem to be contradictory but they are, in fact, causally related. God begins with mercy—an expression of his love—but such love has no real meaning without the accountability of the beloved. Love does not preclude judgment but rather requires it.
There can be little doubt that Paul had judgment very much in mind when he wrote: 'Since …we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men' (v 11)….
What part does this sense of compulsion and accountability play in our ministry as officers? There are many (but by no means all) who testify to a reluctance regarding their call to officership. 'Had there been any other way' they claim, 'we would have found it'. 'But peace of mind can only be found in obedience to the divine call' they continue. Those among us who were not so reluctant would surely confess that certain divine constraints are upon them to pursue their ministry.
If that is fear of the Lord, it is not intended to be a negative, unhealthy fear. It should provide impetus for our work—the desire to go out and try to persuade others of the claims of Christ.
We should also recognise that the Hebrew concept of the fear of the Lord carried overtones of reverence and awe and it is unlikely that Paul would use the phrase without having those ideas in his mind.
True reverence seeks to act in a manner which is worthy of the one revered. Thus the fear of which the apostle wrote ceases to be a negative concept. This is in sharp contrast to our modern understanding of fear—an experience which can bring paralysis.
Such negative attitudes can have devastating effects on our ministry. The sense of reluctance may be the natural response of many when the first battles of obedience are fought, and fear of the consequences of resistance to the will of God may provide the initial motivation to respond. However, unless the initial fear develops into a healthy reverence for God, reluctance can become resentment and the whole of our ministry then becomes coloured by negative attitudes which paralyse rather than motivate our service.
This brings us to a consideration of the second of the motives listed by Paul. What he had experienced of Christ's love gave urgency to his work. Paul had a profound understanding of divine love as we see from such passages as Romans 5:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 13. The evidence of that love is the sacrifice of Jesus and the apostle brings this into sharp focus in 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15: Tor Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all „ that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.'
This compelling power of love caused Paul to reach out in two directions. First, to the source of love—to God in haps we need to remind ourselves that Paul was not a convert from paganism. He had shown the utmost devotion to the Jewish faith and had proved quite fanatical in protecting that faith from any threat. He would probably have claimed that he loved God, but there is no evidence that his love extended beyond his narrow pharisaic dogmatism. His encounter with the risen Christ transformed him and his attitudes. He saw God not in narrow legalistic terms but as One who had reached out to men through the saving work of Jesus. This was love in action and Paul was caught up in devotion to Christ. No wonder he exclaimed, 'Christ's love compels us' (v 14).
Is this the love that compels us? Devotion to an idea or dedication to the movement to which we belong will prove an inadequate substitute for the motivating and sustaining power of Christ's love. We may be quite fanatical in our devotion to a cause, labour to the point of becoming a workaholic, but without a loving response to the love of Christ we are nothing.
The second direction in which Paul's love found expression was towards those who were the objects of Christ's love—those for whom Christ died. This impelled him to be involved in mission. 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. . . And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors' (vv 19, 20).
Can we speak about the power of love without seeking the wellbeing of the beloved?
It must be admitted that some people are easier to love than others and it would be wrong to pretend that it is always easy to reach out to others in love. Some people are repulsive in manner and/or appearance; others reject all our efforts to minister to them. Most of us know to our cost that such rejection is not restricted to the dropouts of society or the unconverted. We meet resistance amongst our own soldiers and congregations and it is often these people who test our endurance to the limits.
But it is impossible for us to discharge our responsibilities and fulfill our mission without a love which seeks the well-being of the beloved. This is the very nature of the God who has called us to his service. He goes on loving even when we reject his love…..”
End Part One
My article follows in Part Two
Sven-Erik Ljungholm PhD