Why did Paul do what he did? Travelled all over the Mediterranean, preaching and teaching, encouraging and correcting – often with little of what this world would consider to be success.
He was ridiculed, accused of heresy, arrested, beaten, whipped, stoned, and imprisoned. He was often hungry, thirsty, cold, and exhausted. He was even shipwrecked three times. In the end, he was very likely executed by the Roman authorities.
Yet he kept on doing his missionary work – the work of sharing the Good News of Jesus in an effort to persuade people to follow Jesus and be reconciled to God.
But why did he do it? Why was Paul undeterred by the opposition?
Yesterday’s Times-Leader had a lengthy article yesterday about a ceremony to dedicate a portion of I-70 near Blaine in memory of Sergeant Emile DeLeau – a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. Here’s a description of what he did in Oberhoffen, France, that earned him our nation’s highest military honor:
After clearing one building of opposition, he moved his men toward a second house and faced heavy machine gun fire. He exposed himself to enemy fire and threw grenades into a window, killing three Germans. He then attacked another house from which came heavy machine gun fire and captured 10 Germans. The next day he pressed forward with his unit, killing two snipers and advancing to a point where heavy machine gun fire barred the way. DeLeau braved gunfire to run across an open area to the rear of the building, where he destroyed a machine gun and killed its operators with a grenade. While attempting to hurl a grenade at another machine gun placement, he was shot and killed.
Why did DeLeau fight with such passion – and without regard for his own safety? Because he believed in the cause of freedom – not just for himself, but also for others.
Paul believed passionately in the redeeming work of Jesus – which makes people new, pays the penalty for their sin, and gives them eternal life. He had experienced it himself – in his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus – and he wanted others to have it, so much so that he had no regard for his own comfort or safety.
But what was ultimately driving Paul onward? He tells us in verse 14: “Christ’s love compels us …”
What a powerful little phrase to use as a mission statement! But the meaning is much deeper than it appears in English.
The English Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version both read: “the love of Christ controls us …” The New Revised Standard Version reads: “the love of Christ urges us on …” But the King James Version gets closer to what Paul is saying: “the love of Christ constraineth us …”
The word that Paul uses means to “press on every side” – which is a way to hold something together. If you have worked with fiberglass insulation,
you know how it is wrapped tightly all around – and when you cut the plastic wrap with your utility knife, the insulation quickly expands to several times its compressed volume.
The word is also used for holding hands over both ears – which is something parents sometimes do to get a child’s undivided attention.
So what Paul is trying to say here is that Jesus’ love for him holds him tightly together with Jesus and keeps him focused on Jesus’ mission. The connection is so tight that the mission becomes part of who Paul is. So in that sense, the love of Jesus did compel Paul to do what he did.
And it should compel us to do the same. We are a week away from Vacation Bible School – our single biggest outreach of the year.
We do not do it just because we have always done it.
We do not do it because we have a reputation of doing great VBSes and have to keep it up.
We do it because the love of Jesus for us has wrapped itself around us so tightly that the mission of Jesus can become our mission. Where He would go, we go. The risks He would take, we take. The message He would share, we share. The love He has for the children flows through us to them.
The world around us cannot understand this. They think we’re crazy for doing it. While Diane and I were building a 22-foot-wide and 15-foot-tall Mount Everest in the sanctuary here at Rock Hill two years ago, we thought we were crazy.
But we’re in good company – because people thought Paul was crazy for putting himself at such risk for the Gospel. And he addressed that in v.13:
If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God;
if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
The love of Jesus Christ can make us do things that seem crazy, but we do them because we love Him for loving us. And yet, that same love of Jesus focuses us, so that we can do the work effectively – because anything that shows the love of Jesus to others is worth doing well.
Are you willing to do something crazy for Jesus? Do you feel His love moving you to participate in VBS or some other mission to share His love?
It may seem crazy, but do it – in the love of Jesus and because of the love of Jesus – and because you love Jesus.