I think it was the episode of Black Adder where his fanatical Puritanical Christian aunt and uncle come to visit Edmund on the very night he is hosting a drinking contest, interrupting a night of great debauchery. Or was it a scene in Monty Python's movie The Life of Brian? Anyhow, I remember a comedic scene from some show or movie where the phrase: "The love of Christ constrains us" (2 Corinthians 5:14) was being repeated over and over again by fanatical Christians. I also remember laughing in agreement at how stupid they seemed. But now that I actually know the love of Christ, I think I could probably repeat that phrase over and over myself with conviction and not find it humorous - except for the memory of the silliness I witnessed on television.
It is knowing Christ's love that has brought about an amazing transformation in me that only my family and my former church family in Duncan BC have truly witnessed. And since I came to know Christ's love 8 years and one month ago, I can say in all honesty, that His love constrains (controls) me. In a previous post I spoke about God's love and how I would do anything for Him because He loves me. So I suppose this post is a little redundant because being constrained by Christ's love means that in almost everything I do and in every decision I make, I consider how my actions will affect my relationship with Jesus Christ and God, my Father. And I consider how they will affect others as well, but mainly because I know that God cares deeply about how I treat other people who are beloved by Him.
I remember a conversation with a friend in recovery who had discovered the power and the reason Jesus spoke of the first and greatest commandment "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." What my friend discovered was that when he obeyed this commandment to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, he was able to stay clean and sober without any effort at all. God did for him what he could not do for himself. And, when he loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, he found that it was much easier for him to love his neighbour as he loved himself - which is the second greatest commandment which sums up all the other commandments God has given us. This is what it means to be constrained by Christ's love.
1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us," and this is the truth. I could not love Jesus until I came to know His love for me. But now that I know His love for me and how extravagant and unconditional it is, I love Him with all my heart. I don't need to earn His love, and in fact there's nothing I could do to earn it. I just need to receive it. And when I say that His love constrains me, it's not because of guilt or a desire to earn brownie points with God so I can make it into heaven, it's because it is my heart's desire to please Him and to bless Him and to serve Him. When someone accepts and loves you just as you are, you want to please that person, not because you need to earn their love, but because you want to bless them in some way because of how they've blessed you. And you want to be like them, too. Their love blesses you so much that you want to be able to love like they do. That's what it's like knowing Jesus, and being constrained by His love. He does not try to control us, but His love for us enables us to control ourselves. What a magnificent God I serve!
And one of the scribes...asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31