Two men were being considered for the pastorate of a certain church. Both preached on the subject of hell. One preached in a cold and threatening way, the other in a compassionate and caring way. The congregation unanimously called the latter as their pastor. Their reason was that the first man left the impression that he didn’t mind if people went to hell, but the second preached as one who was deeply grieved that anyone should miss the love and forgiveness of God.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote about the judgment seat of Christ. This sobering truth gave the apostle a proper sense of urgency as he sought to “persuade men” (v.11). Paul testified, however, that the compelling force in his ministry of reconciliation was not judgment but Christ’s love. In verse 20, his words pleading and implore are words of intense longing and love.

Years ago, Andrew Bonar told Robert McCheyne that he had just preached from Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” McCheyne asked, “Were you able to preach it with tenderness?” The same could be asked of us. How do you and I communicate the gospel of Christ to nonbelievers? God longs to soften our hearts and make us into instruments of reconciliation.