“The love of Christ compels us”
2 Corinthians 5:14
Many people who have felt compelled to serve in the Lord’s vineyard have experienced that such work requires preparation from above. The most important aspect of this preparation is love—love for souls, or soul-saving love.
God Is the Source of All Love
Even if all love comes from God, there nonetheless exists a great difference between natural and spiritual love. Natural love has its limits. It is driven by possession and desire, maintaining a selfish aspect even in its highest and purest form, such as a mother’s love. However, when God’s love enters a heart, it displaces the ego entirely. By giving the Lord His rightful place in our hearts and lives, it puts everything else in order as well. This holy love can never sprout in the dry soil of the natural heart, but must rather be poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is even more than that, for God is love (1 John 4:16).
This love, divine in origin, differs from compassionate humanitarianism. That noble compulsion, which focuses primarily on people’s physical needs, can never be as great as the one originating in service to eternal love. In keeping with the example of the divine Master who helped one and all, soul-saving love cannot overlook the physical needs of one’s fellow man. However, divine love’s primary concern is for people’s eternal welfare.
How Does This Soul-Saving Love Manifest Itself?
The first thing holy love sees in the people whom we encounter in the course of everyday life is the soul—the soul of our husband, wife, child, relative, or friend. It is the greatest and most important thing of all. It is the priority. The soul of the young girl whom God’s hand has led into our household in service; the soul of the mail carrier who comes to our door day after day; the souls of the guests and friends with whom we associate—they are an object of the greatest interest to this divine love. This love sees some of the latent need and suffering residing deep within their hearts. When it notices a sad, troubled countenance, it does not pass by, unlike the priest and the Levite in the parable in Luke 10. Oh, there is so much silent homesickness, so much pain and misery in the world. Blessed are those who have an eye to see and a heart to help.
It was once said of a woman whom God was able to use in winning souls that the secret of her power resided in her belief that any person, no matter how far fallen, could be saved and fully restored to righteousness. Love believes in the grace of God, who wants everyone to receive help. However, it also believes in the danger by which every unsaved soul is threatened. It believes in the saving power of the remedy it offers, in the absolving and freeing power of the blood of Jesus, and in the power of the almighty Lord. That gives us courage and joy to serve, since we have a role to play as well.
It is not enough to acknowledge the need. Love requires works. There is no shortage of means and ways for us to contribute. Thanks be to God for this! We all have opportunities to win souls for the Lord, the magnitude and nature of which depend on our position and talents. Working in a Sunday school program, visiting the sick, talking to the people we meet—such opportunities present themselves to most of us, even if we are not serving the Lord in a specific role. The most important thing is that we are governed by love—this soul-saving love—and that our work is driven not by habit but rather by the power of the mercy we experience each day anew.
Yes, the work we do on our knees is the most successful. Although God allows us to sow the precious seeds, we know that He alone can grant success. A servant of God used to say that he had to win victory over the power of evil in his room before preaching his sermon if he wanted to preach victoriously. The same principle applies to everything done by and through this soul-saving love, no matter how insignificant it may appear from without. Even in areas in which we cannot be active ourselves, prayer and intercession are powerful contributions. Oh, that we might be more faithful in this! In his time, Paul greatly appreciated the congregations’ intercessory prayers, and on many occasions, this hidden power flowing from the throne of God has won otherwise unreachable hearts that had strayed far from God.
It cannot be otherwise. It is said that love hurts, and this holds true here as well. This perspective illuminates many of the Apostle Paul’s remarks concerning physical suffering and internal struggle. We see these furrows of pain reflected in the lives of all true servants of God. When Moses steps into the rift for his people, we hear a voice filled with a deep pain. In his farewell speech to the elders of Miletus, Paul said: “You know…in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials” (Acts 20:18-19). Do we know this pain? Have the unsaved souls’ sin and need ever penetrated our hearts?
A missionary preparing to return to the field from furlough despite his poor health was asked by a friend: “Why are you going back again?”
“Well,” he replied, “I can’t sleep anymore for thinking of all the lost souls.”
How Can I Attain This Soul-Saving Love?
We have already discussed the fount of this love. Let us now draw from it. How? In the first place, by believing in God’s great love and letting ourselves be loved. Let us throw ourselves into this sea of love so that it may fill and wash over us. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).
Let us surrender ourselves as living sacrifices to serve God in spirit, soul, and body. “I’m at your disposal, faithful Lord and Master”—this is the prayer of a joyful bondservant of Jesus Christ. We need to be free of the world and its frivolities, even free from ourselves.
Once free, we need to practice love. If we start to make use of the small measure of love that God has placed in our hearts, we will experience that “to everyone who has, more will be given” (Matthew 25:29). Let us start today, as Andrew did in bringing his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42). Do not seek anything extraordinary! Let us only keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the leading of our Lord and follow the great Savior of Souls, learning from Him the wisdom to win souls (Proverbs 11:30).
May the Savior, who is Love itself, fill our hearts to overflowing. Then, we will experience ever more: “The love of Christ compels us!”