Christ’s Constraining Love

“The love of Christ constraineth us.” —II Corinthians 5:14

THE love of Christ is the love of the Heavenly Father. We could, of course, know something of God’s love apart from Christ. His love is manifested in the sunshine and the rain, and in the wondrous provision of all the things we need. Those who think, see in all these things a manifestation of the Creator’s love. But, oh, the boundlessness of divine love that is revealed to the Christian through the life of Christ!

The disciples said to Jesus, “Show us the Father,” and Jesus replied, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Yes, in the life of Jesus, as recorded in the four Gospels, we have a wondrous close-up view of the Father’s love. It is this love that constrains us, that is, draws and holds us within its control. And what is the result of that control? The Bible answers, saying that inasmuch as we see Christ’s love manifested by the sacrifice of himself for us and for all, we conclude that we do not really belong to ourselves, but belong to him who died for us, hence should live unto him and not unto ourselves.

Christ’s love, therefore, if we are truly constrained by it, should hold us within this orbit of selflessness. This means that the moment we find ourselves viewing life and its experiences from the standpoint of how we can benefit most therefrom, we are getting too far away from the drawing power of the Master’s love. A daily check-up on our attitude should reveal how close we are living to Christ; how successfully we are walking in his footsteps.

To the extent that any of the Lord’s people are constrained by the love of Christ they will endeavor to be guided by his example in all things. There are many wonderful examples of faithfulness given us in the Bible. We think of Enoch, who “walked with God”; of Abraham, who pleased God by his faith; of Moses, the “meekest man in all the earth”; of David, the “man after God’s own heart”; and of others who were commendably noted in various ways. We can profit by their example in some respects, but not altogether, for these faithful servants of God did some things we should not do. With Jesus, however, it is different. His entire life is a pattern for our lives if we have yielded to the constraining influence of his love.

Jesus knew God’s plan far better than we know it, and it is well to keep this in mind in considering the example of his life. He knew that the kingdoms of this world were all a part of Satan’s empire, but he did not rail against those kingdoms. He taught, rather, that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are his. He knew that the scribes and Pharisees of his day were hypocrites, and when conversing with them, he told them so. He did not go out of his way publicly to proclaim this fact to the world, but he did tell the Pharisees themselves.

Jesus, furthermore, could read the hearts of people. He could say of Nathaniel, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” And when there was guile, such as he detected in the hearts of the Pharisees, he was qualified to tell them about it. If we could read the hearts of individuals today as Jesus did, we could safely follow his example in dealing with hypocrites. But since we cannot do this, it would seem unwise to depart from a course of proclaiming the comforting message of the kingdom in order to expose the imperfections of others.

Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, being in no way contaminated by his contacts with fallen man; but this was not because he held himself aloof from the people, or separated himself from their company. The scribes and Pharisees condemned him because he ate with publicans and sinners. There is an example in this for us. We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, not by holding aloof from people, but because the indwelling spirit of God makes us immune to the imperfections with which we are surrounded. Like Jesus, we cannot hope to bear witness to the people if we do not come in contact with them. As Jesus was not contaminated by his contact with publicans and sinners whom he wished to help, so we can keep ourselves separate from the world while bearing witness to it.

Jesus knew that the time was not then due for the conversion of the world—not even of the Jewish nation. He knew that the Jewish nation would not be converted as a result of his ministry. Jesus, nevertheless, zealously performed “mighty works” in Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon, and Capernaum, placing a measure of responsibility upon those cities because they did not repent.—Matt. 11:20-24

The Heavenly Father’s love, which prompted the gift of his Son to be man’s Redeemer, is thus manifested in the Son by his untiring effort to help Israel see the light and repent. His deep concern is revealed near the close of his ministry, when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”—Matt. 23:37

If we are constrained by the love of Christ, we should have no less interest in our fellow men than he displayed, especially in our brethren. We, like Jesus, know that this is not the time when the world will be converted. We know that only one here and there, even of those who profess to be Christians, will accept the truth in this age. We know, furthermore, as Jesus knew, that a glorious opportunity is yet to be given to all mankind under the favorable conditions of Christ’s kingdom; but if the constraining influence of Christ’s love has the same effect upon us as it had upon him, we will work just as hard and sacrifice just as much to let our light shine now as though we believed the world actually would be converted as a result of our efforts.

But we won’t do this in the spirit of accomplishing “great and wonderful works.” We won’t do it to make a name for ourselves, or to convince ourselves or others that we have a right to God’s favor because of our works. We won’t do it in order to build a big church organization, because Jesus did not do it for any of these reasons.

We will do as Jesus did, because we want to be like Jesus, fully yielding to the constraining power of his love. We will do it, not at the expense of our own growth in grace and love, but because our increased growth in love impels us to do it. Being constrained by the love of Christ to lay down our lives in the service of the truth, and for our brethren, we will also endeavor to follow his example of kindness, mercy, patience, long-suffering, and brotherly kindness in all that we say and do. Let us all continue to pray for one another, that we may be constrained more and more by the love of Christ, and be more like him in all things.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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