I had two conversations this week about the same thing: the idea of doing something or obeying someone out of love for them and trust in their love for us, even when we don’t understand or even necessarily agree with what they are asking us to do. (It will be no surprise that both of these conversations were parenting-related.) After talking about it so much, it finally dawned on me that this is exactly what God asks us to do — to trust in His love for us, and to obey out of our trust in His love even when we don’t understand what He is commanding us to do or why He is commanding us to do it. This is what God asks me to do, even when I have a million reasons why I think I should do something else, or just do nothing at all. The verse fragment that popped into my head with this was from 2 Corinthians 5:
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).
I saw here that the word compels was translated a bunch of different ways, so I went here to look up the word in the original Greek and see how it was used in the New Testament. (I know that sounds hopelessly nerdy, but what I found was such a perfect example of why digging in like that is so worth it!)
So here’s what I found: the word that was translated “compels” is synecho. It’s defined at length here, but there are three meanings that really jumped out at me at this particular moment in my life:
“[T]o hold together…any whole, lest it fall to pieces or something fall away from it”,
“[T]o press on every side [like] a besieged city”,
and last but not least,
“[T]o press on every side [like] a cattle squeeze, that pushing in on each side forces the beast into a position where it cannot move so the farmer can administer medication”.
A little more meaningful than just “compels” or “controls”, isn’t it?
One of the things I love and find incredible about Scripture is how it contains a range of meaning on a variety of levels. The very thing that has been incredibly hard and unnerving lately is that everything that is going on (with my sister’s illness, and a variety of other things) makes me feel like I am on the verge of falling apart in some horrifyingly public way. I feel like I’m going to fall to pieces, and when I saw that in the definition this morning — when I saw that the love of Christ holds us together lest we fall to pieces — it brought me to tears. I so needed to know that — that God is holding me together and that He is the one who will make me whole and keep me whole.
At the same time, the other definitions reminded me that the primary purpose of our time here is sanctification — that, for His glory, God is making us more and more like Him and He is doing this through trials and temptations. He besieges us in a sense, He blocks our path with thornbushes and presses us on every side, and He does this so He can speak tenderly to us and — as in the cattle example! — give us the medicine we need.
Instead of seeing God as the mean old grandpa who is not letting us do what we want to do (not sure why that’s the image that always comes to mind for me when I’m being rebellious, but I digress), we should always see God as the One who loves us more than anyone else, and to obey and go where He leads and commands because we trust in His love. After all, there is no greater love than His! And it is that love that compels us, and His Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward when we think we will fall to pieces.
God is not commanding what He commands out of a desire to control us and make us miserable, but because He loves us infinitely and sees far more than we ever could in any and all situations. He is holding us together and treating all that ails us in our flesh and weakness. When He calls on me to love and forgive and pray for everyone (even and especially for my sister’s doctors, who never seem to answer phone calls or messages while she is waiting and suffering in pain), He is compelling me by His love, surrounding me and pressing me and sanctifying me and healing me in and through all of this.
That’s truth that is definitely worth digging deeper for!