2 Corinthians 5:14
For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
I. WHERE LIES THE POWER OF CHRIST UPON MEN. There is nothing parallel with the permanent influence which Christ exercises all through the centuries. Contrast it with the influence of all other great names. But here is a man, dead for nearly nineteen centuries, to whom millions of hearts still turn, owning His mystic influence and smile as more than sufficient guerdon for the miseries of life and the agonies of death. The phenomenon is so strange that one is led to ask where lies the secret of the power. Paul tells us "The love... constrains," and it does so because He died.
1. If we are to feel His constraining love, we must first of all believe that Christ loved us and loves us still. If He knew no more of the future generations, and had no more reference to the units that make up their crowds, than some benefactor or teacher of old may have had, who flung out his words or deeds as archers draw their bows, not knowing where the arrow would light, then the love He deserves from me is even more tepid than the love which, on the supposition, He gave to me. But if I can believe, as Paul believed, that he was in the mind and the heart of the Man of Nazareth when He died upon the Cross; and if we believe, as Paul believed, that, though that Lord had gone up on high, there were in His human-divine heart a love to His poor servant, struggling down here for His sake; then, and only then, can we say reasonably the love that Christ bore, and bears to me, "constraineth me."
2. If there is to be this warmth of love, there must be the recognition of His death as the great sacrifice and sign of His love to us. "Rule thou over us," said the ancient people to their king, "for thou hast delivered us out of the hand of our enemies." The centre of Christ's power over men's hearts is to be found in the fact that He died on the Cross for each of us. That teaching which denies the sacrifical death of Christ and has brought Him down to the level of a man, has failed to kindle any warmth of affection for Him. A Christ that did not die for me on the Cross is not a Christ who has either the right or the power to rule my life. The Cross, interpreted as Paul interpreted it, is the secret of all His power, and if once Christian teachers and churches fail to grasp it as Paul did, their strength is departed.
II. WHAT SORT OF LIFE WILL THIS CONSTRAINING LOVE OF CHRIST PRODUCE?
1. A life in which self is deposed and Christ is King. The natural life of man has self for its centre. That is the definition of sin, and it is the condition of us all; and nothing but Christ can radically eject it from the heart, and throne the unselfishly Beloved in the vacant place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the only way to keep the devil out is to get Christ in. There is but one power which is strong enough to lift our lives from the pivot on which they turn, and to set them vibrating in a new direction, and that is the recognition of the infinite and so tender love of Jesus Christ for each of us. That love may constrain us, shutting out much that one used to like to expatiate in; but within these limits there is perfect freedom. There is no life so blessed and heroic, none in which suffering is so light, pain so easy, duty so delightful as the life that we live when, by Christ's grace, we have thrown off the dominion of self and held out willing wrists to be enfranchised by being fettered by the "bands of love." A comet — these vagrants of the skies — has liberty to roam, and what does it make of it? It plunges away out into depths of darkness and infernos of ice and told. But if it came within the attraction of some great blazing sun, and subsided into a planet, it would have lost nothing of its true liberty, and would move in music and light around the source of blessedness and life. And so we, as long as we make ourselves the "sinful centres of our rebel powers," so long do we subject ourselves to alterations of temperature almost too great to bear. Let us come back to the light, and mow round the Christ; satellites of that Sun, and therefore illumined by His light and warmed by His life-producing heat.
2. One that will often look like madness, Paul was evidently quoting some of the stinging-nettles of speech which had been cast at him by his antagonists. "He is mad," they said of him, as they said of his Master. But such enthusiasts are the salt of the earth; and the mad-men of to-day are the Solomons of to-morrow. Oh! would that there would come similar "fanatics" once more! They would lift all the level of this hollow Christianity in which so many of us are living. If we once had amongst us men after Paul's pattern — some of us who think ourselves very consistent Christians would begin to feel the red coming into our cheeks. The man who professes to live for Christ and never gets anybody to laugh at him as "enthusiastic," and "impracticable," and "Quixotic," has much need to ask himself whether he is as near the Master as he conceits himself to be.
3. One which, in all its enthusiasm, is ruled by the highest sobriety and clearest sanity, "Whether we be sober it is for your cause." There is more sober sense in being what the world calls fanatical, if the truths upon the pages of Scripture are truths, than in being cold and composed in their presence. The enthusiasts, who see visions and dream dreams about God and Christ and heaven and hell, and the duties that are consequent — these are the sober-minded men. There were many learned rabbis in Jerusalem, and many intimate friends in Tarsus, who, when the news came that Gamaliel's promising pupil had gone over to the enemy, and flung up the splendid prospects opening before him, said to themselves, "What a fool the young man is!" They kept their belief and he kept his. All the lives are over now. Which of them was the wise life?
III. WHAT IS YOUR ATTITUDE TO THAT CONSTRAINING LOVE? The outward manner of the apostle's life is not for us, but the principle which underlies is as absolutely and as imperatively and as all-comprehensively applicable in our case as it was in his. There was absolutely no reason for Paul's devotion which does not continue in full force for yours and mine.
1. Christian men and women, do you believe in that dying and living love for you? Do you repay it with devotion in any measure adequate to what you have received?
2. And for some of us who make no profession, and have no reality of Christian feeling, the question is, "Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?" Jesus has loved, and does love, thee; died for thee. He stretches out that grasping hand, with a nail-hole in it, to lay hold upon you, and you slip from His clasp, and oppose to His love a negligent and unaffected heart. Is there any madness in this mad world like that? Is there any sin like the sin of ingratitude to Jesus?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: