The Agora
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Constraining love

"The love of Christ constraineth us" (2Co 5:14,15)
Remarks at a baptism

Today we witness a baptism, an act familiar to us all through years of repetition. An act perhaps so familiar to some of us, that it is very difficult to recall the wonder and awe with which we ourselves submitted to it, years ago. And so we must ask ourselves: Why do we do this?

The Scriptures give several answers:

  1. Because it is commanded (Mat 28:19,20);
  2. Because, being no longer ignorant of the call of Christ, we now know what is required of us (Acts 17:30,31);
  3. Because rejection brings punishment (John 12:48); and
  4. Because baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:1-4).
But, most of all (and lest we forget), we should be baptized because... Christ loves us! "For the love of Christ constraineth us" -- -- not just his power, not just his holiness, and certainly not just our fear of him. But Christ's love is the motivating force that brings us to the water. Christ's love... and God's love: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son...", and "delivered him up for us all" (Rom 8:32).

Such a love frightens us with its intensity. It is the fervency of emotion that is, imperfectly, demonstrated by a father's love for his child -- a pitying, sympathetic, compassionate love that knows no limits and makes no conditions (Psa 103:13).

"The love of Christ constraineth us" -- -- it draws us and compels us, by an appeal to our inmost selves. Whatever we do for God (as though we could do anything for Him!) must be done out of love. No other motive can, in the final assessment, have any meaning. Our love must reciprocate that of Him who first loved us. Our devotion must echo His devotion.

"...Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." We hear, so often, do we not, that baptism is a "death"? And "death" sounds so painful, so fearful, so final! But this baptismal "death" -- with all it implies -- is not so. It is a joyful, loving, grateful response: "I give up my old life freely, because my new life in Christ will be so much better."

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).
Our obedience in baptism, then, cannot be just an intellectual agreement to certain facts and principles. But it must be, finally and foremost, an emotional commitment of our whole beings to the revelation of God's amazing love through Christ. The Almighty God, who spans the heavens with His hands, needs no temple of wood or stone made with our hands. The cattle on a thousand hills are His already; we could not "give" them to Him, no matter how we try. One thing, and one thing only, remains ours exclusively, the "treasure" that can never be His until we offer it to Him, in rapturous response to the miracle of His love made flesh to die for us. Listen, he is asking now:

"My son, my daughter...
Give Me your heart!"

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