What Does Paul Mean When He Says “The Love of Christ Controls Us”?

I’ve been meditating on 2 Corinthians 5:14 over the last week.  It reads, For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore, all have died.  If the word “controls” makes you feel uncomfortable at first, you’re not alone.  Upon encountering this verse, my sinful heart initially recoiled at it as well.  We don’t like to think of ourselves as being controlled.  We are quick to voice our freedom in Christ and we bask in the liberties that his death and resurrection have achieved for us.  The word “control” makes it sound like faith in Christ transforms us into automaton robots, so our eyes begin darting in every direction looking for a way to get around what we think is being suggested here.

Don’t worry, Paul is not saying that Christ’s love takes an unwilling person and makes him do things he doesn’t want to do.  Rather, he is emphasizing the affect that Christ’s love has had on his and Timothy’s motivations and choices.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is so overwhelmingly gracious that the realization of the love it communicates produced such a strong desire for holy living in Paul and Timothy that they saw its work as having control over them.

When a person truly understands the glory of the gospel at the heart level it changes that person from the inside out so that they willingly do what pleases the Lord.  The same thing takes place in Luke 7 with the prostitute who came into the Pharisee’s house to anoint Jesus’ feet.  Jesus tells the Pharisees in this scene, I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little (v. 47).  The prostitute got it; she understood the gospel, which is why she worshiped Christ as she did.  The radical reality of Jesus’ love did not force  her to do something she saw as undesirable, but it did create in her a desire to do that which is ultimately good as if no other option was legitimate.

In those moments when you and I cannot say, like Paul, that Christ’s love controls us, we need to run back to the gospel and drink deeply of its truth while praying that God would help us to see its resplendent beauty in such a way that to do anything else but serve him would be foolish.

 

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About Brent Osterberg

Ransomed sinner, husband to Keri, father to the kiddos three, associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX, and lover of most things epic. View all posts by Brent Osterberg

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