11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he 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 5:11-15 NIV)
There are two motivations in Paul’s life: fear and love. When I think of these two things, I can see how my selfish perspective affects how I view them. I see fear as something that prevents me from doing things. My struggle with depression has shown me how much of my life was governed by fear. My hesitation or procrastination in making a phone call is driven by a fear of something I cannot even define. Fear of failure prevents me from starting projects where there is an element of risk involved.
Fear of the Lord results in something quite different in Paul. Fear is one of the primary motivators of Paul’s evangelistic efforts. He is not motivated by a concern for himself. Instead, he is motivated by his concern for others. If God is who He says He is, then those who do not fear Him are at risk of eternal separation from Him. I can only imagine what it is like to have family members who do not acknowledge God’s existence, much less fear Him. Fear of the Lord and concern for our family member or neighbor should motivate us to be continually looking for opportunities to communicate the love of God and the importance of fearing Him.
Paul makes a statement in verse 14 that should change how we view those who do not know and love God. He says that when Jesus died on the cross, everyone died. Those who identify with Jesus through faith are brought back to life through the power of His resurrection. Those who reject Jesus remain dead.
In the novel I am reading the central plot is that a group of people have been poisoned and placed in a death like state. The heroes of the story are in a frantic search to find the antidote before the death like state becomes permanent death. Our family and friends who do not accept Jesus are in a death like state. Maybe we would be more motivated if they looked more dead. The truth is that they are spiritually dead and physical death will make permanent what could still be changed if the right antidote were applied. We have the antidote.
Our fear of the Lord should convince us that physical death without Jesus is a terrible thing with eternal consequences. Christ’s love at work in us should be the thing that controls us and drives us to do all that we can to change this situation. Paul is trying to explain to the Corinthians that he cannot do anything other than what he is doing because he is controlled by Christ’s love. I can imagine that they are telling him to lighten up a little. He is telling them that it is not a matter of “will not”, but a matter of “cannot”. The question I am challenged with is what would my life look like if I chose to have Christ’s love be in control?