The Love of Christ Controls Us
Martin Luther posed a powerful question in the open letter called “Whether One May Flee a Deadly Plague” or “Whether One May Flee Death.” Written during the time when the plague was ravaging Europe, Luther says the proper question to ask is not, “What would Christ do?” but, “What would you do if it were Christ?”
“This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running… If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbour close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him…”Martin Luther “Whether One May Flee a Deadly Plague”
Now, let me say right at the top here, I am not suggesting that in the midst of this current COVID-19 crisis we should be careless or reject the protocols that have been given to us to stop the spread of the virus. Neither does Luther. After making a strong case for helping neighbor in the love of Christ, he goes on to say that measures must be taken to stay the spread of the disease:
…Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.Martin Luther “Whether One May Flee a Deadly Plague”
Luther’s words are helpful; I would encourage you to read the whole tract to hear his whole argument (Read the tract here)
Luther’s argument hinges around the key truth that all things are under Christ’s authority:
And when they (The 11 Apostles) saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority HAS BEEN GIVEN to Me in heaven and on earth.Matthew 28:17–20
Go therefore… And remember: I am with you always – to the end of the age.”
Notice the mindset of the some of the disciples here: some were doubtful. I find statements like that very comforting and encouraging. Following Jesus is not easy; we have doubts. But what Jesus knows then and what the Apostles will learn over the next several years is that He is over all things AND He is always present with His people, even and especially in the most difficult times.
Jesus’ authority/power over all things is not something that Jesus will be given, it is something that was already true and continues to be true. All things are under Jesus’ power and authority.
Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him.Colossians 1:16–17
And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Jesus Christ is the sustainer of all things as He moves everything along:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In Jesus Christ, all things will be “headed up,” summed up, brought together.
In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our offenses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. He did this when he revealed to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ—the things in heaven and the things on earth.
Jesus Christ has defeated the Devil who held the power of death:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He [Jesus] likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.Hebrews 2:14–15
For all who do not have the hope of Christ, fear of death is the ultimate fear. But we know that Christ now holds the keys of both death and Hell (see Revelation 1:17-18). Death nor the grave can have any final hold on us.
In Christ, we are set free from the fear death.
Jesus Christ will sustain us to the end and we will be blameless.
[The Lord Jesus Christ] will sustain you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.1 Corinthians 1:8–9
This is one of the most powerful and comforting passages in the Scriptures: Jesus will sustain us to the end – blameless. When we finally stand in Jesus presence, He will find us blameless. Jesus and the Father have the responsibility of transforming us into the people they desire for us to be. Think on that for bit. We can be sure that this will be so because God (Father God) is faithful!
So how can we not trust the one who created us, sustains us, defeated Death for us, and promises to present us blameless in the end? These truths have to be a foundational, deeply rooted part of our worldview before we can move on to the greater expressions of these truths.
For the Love of Christ
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul gives us some heart level insight into His ministry as an Apostle for Christ. In a couple of places in his letters, Paul confesses his desire to be done with this life and present with the Lord. But the most important thing is to be pleasing to Christ:
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.2 Corinthians 5:6–9
Paul and the other Apostles were given the great responsibility of taking the Good News of Jesus to all the nations, especially to those who have not yet heard. In this mission, Paul had learned that Christ must be above and before all things. Notice in that passage above, Paul refers to Jesus as Lord. And so He is; He is Master over our lives. For this reason, we want to be pleasing to Him in all things. In this same passage, Paul makes the point that we must all stand before the Lord Jesus to give an account for what we have done in this life. With that in mind, we want to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
So how do we live in a way that is pleasing to our Lord/Master? His love for us defines the shape of our lives. He sacrificed Himself for us and so we give our lives to Him:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.2 Corinthians 5:14–15
The love of Christ controls us…. the love of Christ CONTROLS us. In times of crisis and panic, the desire to look our for ourselves first can become overwhelming. But, as followers of Christ, we are called and instructed to let His love control ALL our actions.
Several years back, I read a book called The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd. I would highly recommend this book to every believer in America, but would warn that it is a brutal read for those who put nationalism on equal footing with The Faith. Nevertheless, Boyd has some powerful words about the power of love and Christ defines it for us:
“The Kingdom of God advances by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves. …in truth there is no greater power on the planet than self-sacrificial love. Coming under others has a power to do what laws and bullets and bombs can never do—namely, bring about transformation in an enemy’s heart. … living in this Calvary-like love moment by moment, in all circumstances and in relation to all people, is the sole calling of those who are aligned with the kingdom that Jesus came to bring.”Greg A Boyd, The Myth of A Christian Nation, 32-33
Going back to a point made in the first part of this series, we as Christian, as followers of Jesus, are given an incredible opportunity in time of crisis, plague, pandemic, war, and all other terrifying expressions of living in a fallen world. When others despair, we can show hope. When others fear, we can show faith. We others are consumed with self-protection and self-interest, we can show love.
Here in the US, I suspect we are in the early days of what will be a lengthy trial with this outbreak. But we who follow Christ have already been given everything “IN HIM” that we need. Who knows, the Lord may use these difficult times to wake people up, maybe even bring revival. We can pray together toward that end.
This I know for sure; Jesus is returning and those of us who have set our hope on Him will not be disappointed.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.Philippians 3:20–21
In the meantime, we wait in hope, persevere in faith, act in love because we want to please our Lord who gave Himself for us.