May the heavens bless Luffy for coming up with the perfect words to relieve Sanji of his terrible burden.
If you think about it, up to this point this arc was everything about Sanji not being allowed to be his true self - he was ridiculed and abused by his own family for being kind, for being vulnerable, for being human. Part of the reason why he was still in so much agony even when he was free to leave was because his kind and vulnerable inner self was demanding him to save even his cruelest abusers.
But Luffy gives him the affirmation to be who he is, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. He’s basically telling Sanji that he didn’t expect any less of him, that such kindness is why he wants him back and why he chose him as his cook in the first place. To Luffy, no more explanation or apology is needed in Sanji being Sanji, regardless of what kind of danger that may bring forth. If that is not the greatest salvation for Sanji’s poor soul in this arc, I don’t know what is.
In the end, what pushed Sanji to make up his mind wasn’t any logical reasoning or secret strategy; he didn’t even need an additional shove from Nami and the others. What made him come back to his senses was none other than a chunk of meat, which reminded him that his shitty meat-loving rubber captain was starving because of him, and it’s his duty as the cook to feed him.
I can’t get enough of how moving this scene was ;_; Not just because Luffy told Sanji the exact words he needed in this moment, but also because when you think about it, there is no one who better understands how kind Sanji can be than Luffy.
Remember when Sanji decided to prepare food for Don Krieg’s crew back on the Baratie, even when he knew they were going to attack the restaurant once they were fed? Everyone except Zeff was utterly bewildered at Sanji’s nonsensical decision, but the fact even Luffy was surprised enough to call Sanji’s name really shows how strong an impression the cook left on him.
Not just here, but Luffy was the only person in the crew who witnessed the essence of Sanji’s character throughout the entire Baratie arc. No other person in the crew has seen Sanji willing to feed even his enemies who would come to destroy the one place he treasures the most - which is why I headcanon that although the other crew members know that Sanji is kind, only Luffy fully understands the extent Sanji is willing to go to help those in need. Maybe that’s why Oda’s giving so much exclusive focus on their relationship in the current arc.
I think the main reason Sanji thinks there’s no going back now is because he can’t forgive himself for uttering all those harsh words to Luffy and beating him up so brutally. Even if Luffy forgives him, the Sanji we know won’t be able to look at his captain in the face, and Nami also. How is Luffy going to convince someone like Sanji that it’s okay to come back? That might turn out harder than protecting the Baratie, or defeating Big Mom even.