For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV)
To rightly understand what Paul is saying in these two verses, they must be seen from the perspective of what has just been said, namely, that all his efforts in the body are an effort to please God through his ministry to others, then more particularly, his claim in 2 Corinthians 5:13 is that he lives this way for the sake of his hearers.
2 Corinthians 5:14 then, forms the basis, or the reason this statement stands true:
Q: Why would Paul give his comfort, his security, his wealth, and even his life itself, for the sake of others? What is it that so grips his soul to live this lifestyle and hold these priorities?
A: The love of Christ
Now there is a wrong way to think about compulsion or control:
It is wrong to think that Paul is saying here that God's love forces him into this lifestyle against his will. While it is possible to compel someone by the scruff of the neck, or control by threat or force, this is not the type of control Paul is speaking about.
And while I may be able to compel you, or exercise control over you, to leave your room with a show of force or a threat of violence—it would be far better to paint such a picture of wonder and beauty of the view beyond your walls that you yourself are compelled to get up and leave the room in order to see it with your own eyes.
It is this type of compulsion Paul is speaking about.
I know this because Paul tells us this himself. The reason for the surety of his statement is laid out in the following sentences—two rock solid arguments laid on each other like an unshakable foundation:
The first is this: Paul had already died.
See his reasoning? Paul appeals to the death of Christ that was not only substitutionary but also representative of his own death. Paul's argument here is that when Christ died, so did he. Paul no longer held ownership over his body, it belonged to Christ.
The second foundation stone is this: While he lived, he lived for Christ
The resurrected Jesus redefines what it means to truly live. If Paul had died in Christ, only to live again, then he must by necessity have a whole new life—one in which his life is no longer his own, to do with as he pleases, but instead it is to be spent for the one who, in love, gave up his own life.
Elsewhere Paul says it like this: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
It is on this unshakable foundation that Paul is so boldly able to proclaim, "For the love of Christ controls us!" After all, it was Christ himself who said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 ESV)
Any act of selfless love, enduring sacrifice, or caring service, must find at its foundation the compelling love of Christ. He does not take us by the scruff of the neck, or by threat of violence force us to serve others. Instead, he paints for us a compelling picture of his love for us, his sacrifice for us, his service to us—then he simply beckons as he has from the beginning, "Come, follow me."
May the love of Christ continue to compel you.