9 Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
11 Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people (2 Corinthians 5, CSB)
I’m scared of the Lord. I’m scared of judgment day. I’m not scared of going to hell or being condemned. But I am scared for the account I must give for my sins, shameful and embarrassing sins. I fear that I’ve wasted much time and resources. I fear thinking of what could’ve been if I didn’t sin in certain situations or if I lived more wisely or with more gospel-intentionality.
This fear is not supposed to be crippling. It’s supposed to be motivating. Judgment day is coming. We will answer to God for our actions and aims in life. We will be “repaid,” in some sense, for what we’ve done in the body. This doesn’t mean we are not justified by faith alone in Christ alone and fully righteous in him. We are. But we must still give an account, even as redeemed and justified sinners. Not everyone agrees with that, but that’s what I understand this text, among others, to be saying.
I want to please Jesus the Messiah. I love him. I need him. He is my King, Master, Savior, Lord, and Friend. I hate dishonoring him and demeaning him. I fear displeasing him because I enjoy him and want to be near him. I fear him.
Because I fear him, I aim to please him (v.9). This means, I seek to persuade people (v. 11). What do I want to persuade them to? I want to persuade them to be reconciled to God. I want to persuade them to trust Jesus. I want to persuade them to rejoice in the goodness and greatness of our reconciling God and his Messiah who became sin for us.
Fear is a legitimate, biblical motivation for pursuing people and pleasing Christ. Paul says so. But it must not be divorced from the gospel, God’s reconciling work toward us, our justification as sinners, and the imputation of Jesus Christ’s righteousness for us.