II Cor. 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ constrains us, for we judge that if One has died for all then are all dead. And that He died for all that they who live should not henceforth live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” It is interesting that Paul says that the love of Christ constrains us. How does His love constrain us? Not by overbearing force, for sure, but by calling us out of ourselves, by wooing us to respond in kind. The purpose of His death was not just that we might be forgiven of our sins, or that we might get into heaven, or be free from the wrath to come, but so that we might walk a saintly walk. The substance of our salvation is sinless holiness. Being forgiven is the first step in that, the entrance into sanctity. The title to heaven and freedom from the wrath to come is what follows such a walk. But being saints is the essence of what He saved us for. When we stand in the light of the cross, in the realization of what a pure and selfless act of love that was, we are called on to respond in a like manner. In the light of the cross our sins are shown up for what they are. Not just our glaring faults, our gross sins, but the secret sympathy with sin that we may hold onto in our hearts. We can no longer indulge ourselves. We cannot fondle our secret resentments, hold grudges, and cling to our own petty selfishnesses. It seems so small to claim the forgiveness of our sins that He has won for us at such a price, but still cherish and prolong the life of the sins in our heart. The love of Christ constrains us to let go of them. In the light of such love we see our failure to love more clearly, and are impelled to respond accordingly.
The result of this meditation on His loving selfless sacrifice is that we must consider ourselves dead to the whole body of our sin. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives within me. And the life that I live in this body I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” He loved me enough to do this for me. He had the faith to do it for me. So nothing in my sinful nature has the right to continue. I am surely dead to sin. I was crucified with Him. So now I do not live for myself, but for Him who died for me. And the wonderful and glorious truth of God that follows: He rose for me as well! The mysterious and wonderful law of selfless love that God revealed to us in Jesus’ cross: When we die for Him we will live forever! Just as He is risen, so we will rise to new life and live with Him forever. “If any man would save his life he will lose it. But he who loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it unto eternal life.”
So the love of Christ constrains us … to holiness that is unfeigned and without hypocrisy, which proceeds from our heart of hearts and is without spot or blemish. The love of Christ constrains us to be holy, to be saints. It calls us on to fully give ourselves. It holds out also within itself the sure promise or a new and better, eternal reward. We see that this reward is contained intrinsically within a life of selfless love, and proceeds out of it according to the wonderful and mysterious law of our loving Father, revealed to us in the death and resurrection of His son.
Out of the light of the cross we can forget how seriously wrong sin is. We forget that we are actually distorting our humanity when we sin. We forget that we are living a sub-human life when we allow it to have dominion over us. “Any man who sins is a slave to sin.” And in forgetting this truth we lose sight of the glorious hope that He holds out to us. We forget how far we have fallen, and so cannot hope for a redemption that is so high and holy. But in the light of the cross we see the true nature of our sins. It cost Him so much to pay for them. They are not small, or insignificant. We cannot look at the price that He had to pay for our sins and ever think that they are not “that bad”. The awful reality of what sin is forces itself upon us inexorably. We cannot excuse our sins; we cannot coddle or indulge ourselves. We cannot deceive ourselves. Not in the light of that love, of the terrible price that He was so willing to pay. “Father if it be possible let this cup pass for me. Yet, not as I will, but as Thou will … Father if I must drink this cup, then Thy will be done.” I recall a brief flashing vision that He granted to me when I was first entering the community. I did not want to give up my old life. It had a hold on me. I saw Him lying on the cross and they were driving the nails in. There were gaping wounds in His hands. He said to me “Mike you’re making it hard on me”. Strangely, there was no guilt or shame that I felt, but a certain realization. I actually dismissed it quite easily … for a while. But I have never forgotten that. It is in fact, a simple but undeniable truth. The love of Christ constrains us to renounce our sins. It impels us to sanctity. It calls us, woos us to sanctity. We are to be holy as He is holy. We are to strive for that holiness without which no man can see God.