Compelled by the Gospel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marie Bowen   

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Use of the word 'compelled' has fallen away in recent decades, losing popularity in our American culture which highly values self-determination and autonomy. What do we mean when we say PPL is "compelled by the gospel"?

Our use of the word 'compelled' points to a force beyond ourselves—God, who calls, inspires, and yes, compels us to champion the lives of vulnerable human beings who are unable to speak for themselves. I don't believe we experience it as a negative force or pressure so much as a being carried by something greater than ourselves.

A few years ago I read a novel about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania in May of 1889. The flood, caused by the failure of the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River, was catastrophic, taking more than 2000 lives. The novel (title and author have been long forgotten by me) ends with a woman carried downstream on a log. She knows she is heading to her destruction but in a moment of exhilaration, she stands and raises her arms reveling in the sense of freedom even in her complete powerlessness. That is the image that comes to mind when I think of what it means to be compelled by the gospel. There is a sense of being propelled—perhaps where we did not always intend—yet there is no fear, only complete trust in the One who calls and compels us to be champions of life.

The gospel of salvation by grace alone . . .

We are compelled by the gospel of salvation. We have been set free from sin and death through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. That rescue is completely unmerited. It comes by God's grace alone.

Scripture is peppered with stories that assault our prejudices about who is worthy to be chosen. In spite of traditions that favored firstborn sons, God chose Jacob over Esau to become the chosen nation. God chose a shepherd boy to defeat a giant and then made him a king. Even though he committed adultery and murder, God placed him in the lineage of the Messiah along with foreign women, a prostitute, and children of incest.

God often chooses the imperfect, he repairs the broken, and His love shines through cracked lives. God makes choices we do not understand, values persons we do not, and rewards persons who seem undeserving. Only when we comprehend the magnitude of our own unworthiness and his undeserved grace toward us, can we begin to accept his justice and trust the wisdom of his grace for others. It is that understanding that compels us to rescue others whose lives are in danger.

Through faith alone . . .

We cannot earn our salvation, or see it, or taste it, or hold it. We cannot control it, or contribute to it, or duplicate it. Even the very faith to believe that God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ is itself a gift of grace to us. In that moment when faith becomes more real to us than those things we can touch, we begin to grasp that all that we have is from God and belongs to him. That faith compels us to share the provision that God has given to us with those in peril of death who come into the path of our lives. The gift of faith compels us to open our homes, our hearts and our pocketbooks to the elderly, the disabled, the broken, the homeless, and orphaned, and pregnant mothers in need.

In Christ alone . . . 

No other one is worthy of our faith because no other one can provide the rescue from sin and death that we so desperately need. Only Jesus Christ is both God and man and, because he is sinless and holy, is able to pay the penalty for our sin, freeing us from death and giving us eternal life. Because of his acts of incredible love and sacrifice for us, we are compelled to act to rescue those in the path of death and destruction—at every stage of life.

Compels us to base our ministry efforts on Scripture as God's revealed word.

So, everything we do as we equip Presbyterians to champion human life, must align with the plain meaning of the whole of Scripture. PPL hopes to reflect God's loving grace, a strong unquenchable faith in Christ alone, and a faithful representation of the truth in Scripture.



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