To be compelled is to act.
When something is compelling it brings about action out of whatever ideals or beliefs lay underneath the decision. For instance, soldiers are often compelled by duty, or loyalty/comradeship, to do actions which place them in harm's way. I would be compelled to jump out of the way of an oncoming car because I did not want to get hit and suffer those consequences.
If something is a belief, but it does not lead to action, then it isn't compelling and it can be questioned how much it really is believed. Compelling action can be positive (for a benefit) or negative (to avoid consequence).
Causes (like the commercials for animal abuse) are only compelling if they grab hold of us and make us step up and take part in the cause. Perhaps this means we speak on the subject, but more often than not a compelling cause moves beyond mere words. The martyrs and heroes of stories are compelled to act on their virtues, while villains either lack any compelling motivation or are compelled by vice (or personal gain).
I have known many people who have been compelled toward a particular cause to support or vocation to live. Homelessness, poverty, disaster relief, injustice, political idealism, religious doctrine, greed, or the American Dream all compel some people.
I've often reflected on my life as to what really compels me to act? What grabs me by the throat and makes me take notice? What must I take action for (or against)?
What compels me?
In 2010-2011 I worked for the Luis Palau Association on the Arizona CityFest staff. A large part of this job was to connect with the agencies, churches, and organizations that served various needs in the state. The work was very interesting, to see the many ways that people were acting on solving various issues, often with not much interaction. I realized each of the causes in the areas of homelessness, hunger, health care, education, community revitalization, and foster care, to name a few, were all very valid and needed problems to be fixed. I saw many people who were compelled to act on a particular cause, and it was encouraging for me to see. Because even though I recognized the need, I often was not compelled the way others were. Yet, in connecting people with these passionate callings, I think I found at least a little satisfaction. I'm not sure I can call that compelling, but I did wonder what it was that would compel me.
I also recognized these issues as facets of a much larger cause. One pastor I met said that all of these causes were simply the result of our fallen nature and the only way to solve them was to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. This response annoyed me, not because there was not some truth to the statement, but how it separated and cut out these causes from that gospel. Can the gospel not have action as a necessary part of it?
Seriously, what gospel will stand and tell people that their way is in error and all they have to do is accept Jesus and then they will be saved, yet it does nothing for their empty stomach or the oppression of governments and corporations? How does the physical and spiritual get separated? I find it very wanting to claim that all we have to do is convince people to pray a prayer, or change a belief set, and then all will be well (saved).
Please recognize I am fully (FULLY!!!!) in support of the understanding that through the grace of God found in Jesus Christ we are saved. I am not denying Jesus at all. What I am saying is that this salvation cannot and is not devoid of implication in the here and now. I cannot act towards others with a system of belief and yet have no action.
Faith without works is not a compelling gospel. Faith without works is dead.
If the Bible is clear on anything, it is that works, or our own attempts at rule/law-keeping do not save. Yet, once we accept the grace found in submitting to the Lordship (rule) of God, then there is absolutely no way that our lives are not compelled to change. The apostle Paul even speaks of working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
In Jesus we find that the law of God is summed in loving God and loving others. An easy way to think of such an idea is that the love of God compels us to live a life of love.
Even in the causes mentioned above, what compels these individuals towards a particular cause more than love?
What compels me?
A love experienced in life by a God that continues to pursue and validate me.
A love described and recorded in the story of Israel, and culminating in the story of Jesus Christ.
A love that sacrificed his own life for others. (And we find in his own words that greater love is found in laying down ones life for others).
I don't think I can be any clearer than this, when it comes to my life.
Christian doctrine on election or the presence of evil do not compel me.
Philosophical understandings of maturing wisdom and learning do not compel me.
Money in absolutely no way compels me.
God's love compels me.
I pray that God's love compels me to live a compelling love.