Constrains, Controls, or Compels

You can probably think of a time when you were asked, “What were you thinking? Why did you do that?” and it’s likely you remember asking these questions to another person. These questions drive at motive: what was going on inside that caused some specific action? It is a big task to answer the question of motive. It typically is not an easy answer, for us or for others, but we need to think about it and understand what is motivating us.  

The three words in the title are the words various translations have used in II Corinthians 5:14. The verse says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” Paul follows this verse with an explanation for why the love of Christ is “constraining” him. His reasons apply to all of us, but let’s think about the one word a little.   

Notice the different connotations of the words in the title. “Constrains” feels like it is a force applied from the outside, while “compels” feels like something that comes from the inside out. There is a big difference between someone whose actions are being forced from the outside or a person who is motivated from within. This is true in many areas but especially our Christianity. Why do we do what we do? Is it the love of Christ that motivates? Or is it what other people will think? Is it to build His kingdom? Or is it to build my kingdom?

We must be careful when we answer these questions because we are capable of deceiving ourselves. We know what the right answer is, and it is easy to say/think the right thing because we know we should. But is that the truth? Is it the love of Christ that compels what we do? How would it look if the love of Christ was controlling every decision? What do I need to yield to Him?

This is no simple task because the desires of our flesh are strong. Paul tells us we are to no longer live for ourselves. (v. 15) “But what about my rights?” “If I don’t take care of me, who will?” What is the motive behind these questions? Our spirit really is willing, but many times our flesh is so weak.

It has been a healthy challenge for me to consider my motives. Do I have Christ deep inside, and is it love for Him which constrains, controls, or compels my decisions? With His help, I continue surrendering whenever and whatever is necessary.

-Arlin Horst

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