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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 5:11—6:2           

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.

We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (NRSV)

What’s the nuttiest thing you’ve ever done for love?

If you’re anything like me, some of your answers to that question would be offered freely and gleefully. Others might make you embarrassed or regretful.

When swept up in a powerful love, we act in ways that surprise us. Sometimes it feels as if we are out of control, in the grip of a force that is mysterious and irrational and bigger than we are.

Paul gets that. In verse 14 he reflects on what the love of Christ can get us to do. The NRSV translation given above says that it “urges us on.” Other translations render the verb as “compels” (NIV), “constraineth” (KJV), “controls” (RSV), “presseth” (DRA). My go-to translation (the NAB) gives it as “impels.” The etymology of that word is pretty straightforward; im (towards) + pel (drive). The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “drive, force, or urge someone to do something.” The online Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation provides this helpful tip when considering the difference between “compel” and “impel”: “Think of impel as the carrot and compel as the stick.” In other words, if we’re impelled to do something, we are motivated by something positive, but if we’re compelled, not so much.

So the love of Christ is the carrot that can get us to do some crazy things. Live for something other than our own needs and desires. Believe in life beyond death. Hope in a new creation. Become righteousness. Be so reconciled with each other (even those with whom we’d rather stay unreconciled) that we could be called ambassadors. Love. Now.

Powerful and convicting God, thank you for showering the love of Christ upon us. Open us so completely to it that we are empowered to act in your stead. Help us to act a little unreasonably in service of your kingdom. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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