Love is the most powerful force known to man. Nothing is stronger. It should not surprise us then, that love is the key motivating factor in scripture.
The apostle Paul wrote to a friend and brother from whom he had received much joy and comfort (Philemon 1:7). This letter was written concerning a new brother in Christ, a slave named Onesimus, who had left the household of Philemon. Paul wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, and to receive him not as a bondservant but as a beloved brother (Philemon 1:15, 16). As an apostle, Paul had the power to command (Philemon 1:8). Yet, that is not the way Paul approached this situation.
“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you — I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus — I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment” (Philemon 1:9, 10 ESV).
Paul made his appeal “on the basis of love” (NET). Is that not how God appeals to us?
It was for love’s sake that the Word came to this earth (1 John 4:9). It was for love’s sake that Jesus offered up his life for ours (John 15:13; 1 John 4:10). It is this very act of love that teaches us the nature of love (1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:19).
It is for love’s sake that we are called to faithfulness. It is for love’s sake that we are to live in holiness. It is for love’s sake that we are to be and to make disciples.
It is for love’s sake that we discipline ourselves and submit to the discipline of God (see Hebrews 12:3-17). It is for love’s sake that we pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus. It is for love’s sake that we follow the commands of our Savior (John 14:21).
Are you motivated by fear? While it is true that fear might comprise a small portion of our motivations, it should not dominate. The Hebrews writer appealed, in part, to his wavering readers on the basis of fear and punishment (Hebrews 10:26-31). But as one grows in faith, their fear of punishment should diminish. Not that they lose an appreciation for the horrors of hell, but they grow in their love and appreciation for God.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
Just as Paul appealed to Philemon through love to do the difficult but right thing, God appeals to us. Will you allow the love of Christ to control you (2 Corinthians 5:14)?