June 5, 2014

Compelled By What?

In my study and memorization of Galatians, I've been consistently struck by one word that pops up throughout: compel. It likely sticks out because the word compel is in one of my all-time favorite passages of Scripture: "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).

This is a hopeful compelling, a very sure footing and motivation for sacrificial ministry in Christ's name. But in Galatians, the compelling is of a different type, or more accurately, toward a different end. It is a compelling toward division, categories, and judgment. Toward people and their own glory rather than toward God and outward in love.
The gist of Galatians is this: Paul comes down hard on Jews (the circumcised) who have followed Christ through grace by faith but then have required Gentiles (the uncircumcised) to observe Jewish laws in order to be fully saved. Paul faces all kinds of pushback about it, but he holds a firm line that the gospel is that we are saved through grace by faith in Christ alone.

So where does this word compel show up? It appears in Galatians 2:3 and 2:14-16, but the one verse that has stood out to me is 6:12:

As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised...

Why does this stand out? Because motivations and ideas have consequences. These were influential people teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation: leaders, teachers, pastors, perhaps even pastor's wives. Even Peter and Barnabas were caught up in it for a time (Galatians 2:11-13). We don't know the others' names, but we do know that their motivation was to instruct people to do a certain thing that would in effect cause people to come to their side, to be like them, to validate their choices and behaviors. It was to rally a group around them. They desired to make a good showing, and that motivation had divisive, harmful consequences. That desire led people astray from the true gospel.

This has just sort of stuck in my heart. I am just like every other woman alive--I want people to like me, admire me, and respect me. But as a pastor's wife, if that desire is my driving motivation for what I do in ministry, if I desire to make a good showing, my end goal is really to raise a group of people who follow me, not God. I am either preaching myself and my convictions, or I'm preaching the gospel; there is no middle ground. I'm compelled by something and I'm compelling others to something in everything I do. A desire for the approval of others will always compel me to manipulate others for my own glory. But the love of Christ, according to the 2 Corinthian passage, will always compel me to service, to live for others rather than for myself.

Sometimes I find myself wanting people to do things the way I do them or having the same convictions that I have about open-handed issues. Sometimes I want to force my thoughts and opinions on others. And, as I already stated, sometimes I just plain want to be liked. Galatians has challenged me to stop and consider how destructive those motivations can actually be if not reined in by Christ's gospel of grace.

And it's caused me to consider two things:
What am I compelled by? My own glory or by the love of Christ?
And what am I compelling others to? Myself or to the gospel?

I ask the same of you. Because motivations have consequences, either harmfully divisive or joyfully freeing, both for you and for others.