September 18 & 25, 2011
Both Rest and Responsibility
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
In the gospel there is a healthy balance between security and motivation. The central fact of the gospel is that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). But this information is more than merely interesting. It is motivating.
“The love of Christ compels us.” If Christ died for us, then we must live for Him. Thus the gospel holds in balance both of the things we need: a source of rest and a sense of responsibility. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
Since different people need different things, the gospel addresses each of us where we are. If we're worried, downtrodden, and fearful, we need to hear of God's love. But if we're lazy, irresponsible, and presumptuous, we need to hear of God's requirement that we serve God actively. But even while we're being warned, we still need to be reminded that God is on our side. And conversely, while we're being reassured, we dare not forget that obedience is necessary. The gospel never loses sight of either rest or responsibility. And neither should we.
Jesus put the emphasis wherever it was needed. He didn't hesitate to emphasize one of these more than the other if that's what His hearers needed. Depending on the audience, Jesus could say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), but He could also bluntly ask, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
This does not mean that Jesus contradicted Himself. It simply means that He knew the difference between those who needed a sedative and those who needed a stimulant. For our part, do we understand the gospel's provision for both needs? And do we have the honesty to see in which direction our own personal needs are the greatest?
“It is true that the convert has laid upon him an obligation like no obligation in all the world because he has been loved like no other love in the world; but the convert has also been given a peace like none in the world, for he knows that God loves him, not for what he is, but for what God is” (William Barclay).