This past weekend, many gathered from around the Southeast US for an enriching conference, Compelled 2015. The title of the conference was drawn from the scripture, "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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 Cor 5:14-15). This idea of the love of Christ compelling us is what each lesson centered around the entire weekend, and it was fantastic!
But what exactly am I compelled to do? Paul used the word συνέχει (synechei) to illustrate the control that Christ's love had over him. He was hard pressed with, confined by, controlled by, impelled by the love of Christ. In his ever-increasing understanding of the love of Christ, expressed on the cross while Paul was still his enemy (Rom 5:10), he was afflicted with the driving force of living for Christ instead of himself.
Paul used similar vernacular in Philippians: "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn [συνέχομαι, synechomai) between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."
"I am συνέχομαι," Paul said. In his unending desire to be with Christ, he longed for his heavenly tent, for while in his earthly tent (his mortal body) he groaned and was burdened (2 Cor 5:1-10) by the task that he was compelled to see through. Jesus used this same language when he was constrained (συνέχομαι) until his baptism was completed (Luke 12:50). Similarly, the Garasenes were overcome/seized (συνείχοντο·) with fear when Jesus drove Legion into pigs.
As we return from a weekend of convicting classes, great fellowship, teaching, preaching, worshipping, are we compelled, constrained, seized, torn by the love of Christ? Am I constrained by Christ's love to live for him instead of for myself? Does my love for Christ tear me between departing with Christ at this very moment and continuing to spread the gospel to the world, or do I not inwardly burn to do one or the other? Am I apathetic? Paul desired inexplicably to be with Jesus and to save the lost, so much so that he struggled with whether or not to depart to be with Jesus now or to remain in the world to preach, knowing clearly that the world needed him. His conclusion was that it was more necessary for the Philippian church that he remained on Earth. How outwardly focused! Am I overcome by Christ's love, seized by the love of his sacrifice, that I can't stop spreading the gospel?
What might be easy after a weekend full of spiritually enhancing classes is to fall in love with the idea of being compelled. Jesus' sacrifice was not just an idea, nor was it a physical anguish in theory. Jesus actually died, and he actually wants his followers to actually do what he calls them to do, namely, save the world through him. If you consider yourself a Christian, search your heart, as I will search my own, to be compelled the way Paul was compelled: to yearn for Jesus, and to burn inwardly with a passionate desire to share the truth with others. The way we know undoubtedly that Paul was compelled is because of his lifestyle following his salvation in Christ.
Paul's Spirit-led life was a clear indication of his desire to save people "by all possible means" (1 Cor 9:19-23). In what was considerably the shortest of his three missionary journeys (~1400 miles), Paul went from Antioch to Seleucia to Salamis and Paphos; then Perga, to Antioch of Pisidia, then Iconium; from Lystra and Derbe back to Lystra, then Iconium and Antioch; from Pisidia, Pamphylia, and Perga to Attalia, then Antioch, and finally Jerusalem. There he met with the Counsel of Jerusalem to determine the most sufficient way to write to all the Gentile churches to ensure they understood the message of reconciliation (see Acts 15). In Paul's second journey, he travelled ~1400 miles MORE than in his first journey, revisiting many of the churches he planted, and also visiting many new places (Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.) In his third journey, he travelled another ~2700 miles through Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, and Israel, visiting many churches, preaching as he went led by the Spirit. Not to mention his ~2250 mile journey to Rome and his countless other travels before he died, it was and is undeniably clear that Paul was compelled to do anything and everything possible to spread the gospel to every part of the world.
Being compelled in our lives may look like talking to a stranger at the grocery store. It might mean spending an hour going to your city to meet people to study the Bible with. It might look like inviting your class or co-workers to a Bible discussion. It may be serving at a homeless shelter, or loving a stranger in need. It may look different for each person. What is consistent is the drive to save people by all possible means. This means being uncomfortable. This might mean loving Jesus and the Word more than you ever have before. It could mean moving to a new place or staying in your current location. What it must mean is opening your mouth, even if you don't want to, and convincing people that Jesus is more important than any career, person, place, or thing in the entire world. Paul's lifestyle indicates that he was truly and undeniably compelled by the love of Christ.
Are you compelled?