The Bible’s Viewpoint
The Love That Binds
IN 1978 a huge storm in the North Atlantic buffeted the luxury ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2. Waves the height of a ten-story building crashed down on the ship, making it bob like a cork. Furniture and passengers were thrown about as the vessel pitched wildly. Remarkably, only minor injuries occurred among the 1,200 passengers. Good engineering, materials, and construction kept the ship from breaking apart.
Centuries ago there was another ship in the grip of a tempestuous storm. The apostle Paul and 275 others were on board. Fearing that the ship would be broken to pieces by the intensity of the storm, the sailors apparently passed “helps”—chains or ropes—under the ship from one side to the other to hold together the wooden planks that made up this merchant ship’s hull. All the passengers on board were saved, though the ship was not.—Acts, chapter 27.
Trials in life may sometimes make us feel as if we were on a ship in turbulent seas. Waves of anxiety, disappointment, and depression can sweep over us, testing our love to the limit. To weather such storms and avoid breaking apart, we too need some helps.
When Storms Arise
The faith and endurance of the apostle Paul are well chronicled in the Bible. He slaved in behalf of the early Christian congregations. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28) His accomplishments in the work of the Lord give clear testimony to his intense love for his neighbors and his strong relationship with God. Yet, Paul’s life was not always smooth sailing. Both literally and figuratively, the apostle weathered many storms.
In Paul’s day, when a ship encountered a turbulent storm, the survival of the passengers and the ship depended on the skill of the crew as well as on how well the ship held together. It was no less so when the apostle encountered figurative storms. Though Paul had weathered physical deprivation, imprisonment, and torture, the severest storms that challenged his spiritual and emotional stability and his ability to continue to love came from within the Christian congregation.
For example, Paul labored tirelessly for a year and a half to establish the congregation in the city of Corinth. His experiences with the Corinthians caused him to develop tender feelings for the flock. Paul even spoke of himself as being a father to them. (1 Corinthians 4:15) Yet, despite his record of love and hard work in behalf of the congregation, some in Corinth spoke abusively of Paul. (2 Corinthians 10:10) In light of all that he had done in the way of self-sacrifice, how disheartening that must have been!
How could those who had received of Paul’s unstinting love be so cruel and disparaging? Paul must have felt as if he were being pulled apart, like a ship in the grip of a tempest. How easy it would have been for him to give up, to feel that his past efforts were all in vain, or to become bitter! What held Paul together? What prevented him from being pulled apart by disappointment?
The Love That Holds Us Together
Paul left no doubt in the minds of his readers as to the wellspring of both his strength and his motivation. He wrote: “The love the Christ has compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Paul pointed to the preeminent source of strength and motivation. The compelling force is “the love the Christ has.” A Bible scholar made the following observation with regard to this scripture: “Paul does not say that our love for Christ holds us to our ministry . . . That would be stopping at the halfway station. Our love for Christ is kindled and constantly fed by his love for us.”—Italics ours.
The love that Christ demonstrated by submitting himself to an agonizing death on a torture stake—thereby giving his perfect human life as a ransom to save all believing mankind—motivated, compelled, and constrained Paul to continue serving in the interests of Christ and the brotherhood. Thus, Christ’s love controlled Paul, restraining him from selfishness, and confined his aims to the service of God and of fellowmen.
Indeed, the source of motivation behind a Christian’s faithful life course is Christ’s love. When we are faced with trials that can have a debilitating effect on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the compelling force of Christ’s love enables us to go beyond the point where someone less motivated would give up. It gives us the strength to endure.
We cannot rely on our imperfect emotions to sustain and motivate us. This is especially so when our trials come as a result of disappointment or anxiety. On the other hand, Christ’s love has the power to hold us to our ministry, to sustain and motivate us, notwithstanding our personal trial. Christ’s love enables a Christian to endure not only beyond the expectations of others but perhaps even beyond his own expectations.
Moreover, since Christ’s love is enduring, the effect is never-ending. It is a compelling force that does not waver or diminish. “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) It enables us to go on following him faithfully, come what may.
Emotional trials exert a force that can pull us apart. How vital it is, therefore, that we meditate on the love Christ demonstrated for us. Christ’s love will hold us together. His love makes it possible to avoid a shipwreck of our faith. (1 Timothy 1:14-19) Further, Christ’s love compels us to do all we can to glorify the one who made the expression of Christ’s love possible, Jehovah God.—Romans 5:6-8.