“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10
Christ’s love compels us. It overrules us. It dominates us. It completely controls us. The apostle Paul makes it clear in most of his letters that the love of Jesus drives every bit of what he’s all about. Christ’s love grabs him and shakes him and won’t let him go.
And I’d like to just end it there. In fact, that is where I normally end it. Christ’s love compels me. Christ loves us and he’s good to us, so let’s go love others and be good to others. Ready, break!
Paul is motivated by Christ as Savior. Paul does what he does for the Kingdom because Jesus sacrificially died for Paul’s sins. But Paul is also just as clearly motivated by Christ as Judge.
He spends a lot of ink in Romans telling us that “God will give to each person according to what he has done” and that “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” He lets us know in a couple of other letters that God doesn’t show favoritism, he’s no respecter of persons. “We know what it is to fear the Lord,” he says in 2 Corinthians 5:11. And that’s why we “try to persuade men.” We “make it our goal to please him,” Paul writes, BECAUSE “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
The love of God is real. Salvation from our Lord in Christ Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is real. But there is no salvation if there’s no judgment. There’s no grace without punishment. And we must be aware that Paul’s fear of the Lord drove his ministry and message even as Christ’s love compelled it. In our churches today we gravitate quickly and fiercely to Christ’s love. Yet the magnitude of Christ’s love in the 2 Corinthians 5 passage only comes out against the realities of God’s judgment.
It is both responsible to the Scriptures and relevant to the message of the Church to frame the Gospel within BOTH the fear of God as holy and righteous Judge AND the love of Christ as gracious and blessed Redeemer.