October / November 2019 - Vol. 106

                  Jesus today as his his disciples 
Controlled by the Love of Christ
by Tadhg Lynch 
For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
The call of the Lord as expressed by the apostle Paul in Second Corinthians is straightforward. He writes that “we are convinced that one has died for all.”

Through our lives in Christian community we are called to follow this teaching. We teach about service; about the necessity of finding a place in the body where we are not merely “contributing” and “expressing” but where we are really (in a small way) experiencing some cost. We teach about embracing humility, lowliness and suffering as a means to cultivate the desire to “lay down [our]…life for one’s friends” and to encourage a life where we “honor one another above yourselves”. We also teach the call to imitate Christ in his life of personal sacrifice and death on the cross.

As the church moves forward in her mission today, we may often be discouraged by what we see around us. Christians in many parts of the world, and some of our own brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere, experience intimidation, harassment, and persecution for their faith and the life of Christian discipleship they seek to live. Many of our church traditions grapple with public scandal over past and present sins or suffer their moral and doctrinal teaching to conform to the standards of the world, seemingly incapable of presenting the truth through the ever more capricious lens of the media. The politicians of my own country – the Republic of Ireland – have voted to legalize abortion and take the lives of those most needing protection in our society. 

As I meet fellow Christians across this world, I see a similar pattern in disciples from all different churches, denominations, cultures and countries. Some have embraced the call of discipleship and have paid the cost. Some have not embraced it or have turned away. 

"Half-crucified Christians"
In our Kairos evangelistic work with university students and other young people, I meet more and more who know something of Christ, and may even have a desire to live a life like his, but they seek to live it their way for themselves.  Some days, this is the life that I live – a life that is controlled by the love of me and what I want. When I live life this way, Christ may be on my lips, he may be around my neck, or on my t-shirt, but he is not in my heart, mind, and soul. I meet more and more disciples like myself – we half crucified Christians – who know the cost we must pay, and willingly stand in line at the register, but gladly encourage those behind us to approach. 

And then I meet Christians who are controlled by the love of Christ. They may look, act, and pray somewhat differently from one another, but they are united by the conviction that “one has died for us all; therefore all have died.” In this present world which has been described as “a culture of death,” they have chosen to live a Christ-centered life that is a kind of  living death – praying, working, serving to bring the kingdom of God – gladly awaiting the time when they can lay down their own life and go to be with the Master for whom they have died a long time ago. Some days this is me – would that it were more and more. 

I have not spent sufficient time in this present world to know whether our society is getting objectively worse. I grew up in an age where governments often seemed to pass laws which weakened traditional Christian morality and where a good sermon was something to be noted and commented on rather than expected. Those whose opinion and grey hairs I trust however, tell me that it is so, and I accept their wisdom and judgment. 

Dying and living for Christ crucified
One thing I do recognize, is that it is becoming easier and easier to spot the Christians who are dying, to see the men and women who live no longer for themselves but for him - the crucified and risen one. I believe that we who are called to covenant community, as well as all Christians, are faced with this same choice once. Most blindingly, terrifyingly, concretely, and ordinarily once – and (if we choose right) every day thereafter. To be part of a Christian community, to attend a small group, or serve in an outreach is no guarantee that I have died and that Christ now continually lives in me. It is a help for sure, but no guarantee. I meet those in this world (many thankfully within our community movement) who are convinced, that one has died for them and that therefore they must die. They are often raising children, working in tax law, cleaning the fridge, and painting houses - and you can tell that they are dying all the same. You can tell because they look so alive. They don’t seem like they’re trying to talk to you about Christ but they do. You don’t see the sacrifice of their difficult decisions about them, but you see the life of Christ that they are living. 

This is our mission. To daily pick up our cross and walk as Christ has walked, and to bring his light and life to the world. As the world that does not know Christ darkens around us, we will find the call of discipleship quicker and easier to do if we have really died. But it will be slower, longer, and harder if we wish to postpone the cost or tarry in the darkness. 

No fear for those who follow Christ
If we have died with Christ, we have no fear of what the world may do. Our only desire will be to save those in it who hear and accept the message of eternal life. We have no real affinity with this present world, for it is passing away and our time here is fleeting. That it turns against us should neither surprise nor dismay. It can encourage us to redouble our efforts, knowing that each relationship we have built, each trust won, each testimony shared is not a wild hopeless shot into the darkness of a void but a blow with a hammer to a wall which will – through God’s good work – eventually shatter to reveal the world which will never pass away. 

We may lament the current state of this present world and its decline, but we must remember that this is not where we are supposed to finally live. The man who fights behind enemy lines gives no thought to the plants he tramples in pursuit of victory. He knows there is a garden kept for him to enjoy at home when the battle is won. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, theologian and martyr wrote simply in his spiritual classic – The Cost of Discipleship “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Make it so in us, Lord Jesus.

[This article first appeared in the February / March 2015 Issue of Living Bulwark.]

Tadhg Lynch is a lifelong member of the Servants of the Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord, and a Mission Director for Kairos in Europe and the MiddleEast, an international outreach to young people. Tadhg is originally from Nazareth Community, Dublin, Ireland. He currently resides with the Servants of the Word in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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