May 16, 2021
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11-14 NIV)
After all Paul’s passionate pleading and expression of emotion this ending comes as a bit of a surprise. His conclusion begins with a command to rejoice. Paul then continues with a typical series of short commands that conclude with a personal greeting and a blessing.
Pursuing these four commands is easier said than done. Paul provides a description of fellowship that goes far beyond a monthly potluck. Fellowship begins when reconciliation and restoration dominate the mission of the church. We must be a people who are determined to put back together what has been broken. This is hard work and requires intentional effort driven by a desire to experience God’s love and peace.
We want instant results and reconciliation and restoration often take years rather than hours. We show we care about the challenges our brothers and sisters are facing when we encourage them to keep trying, especially when we see they are ready to give up. Paul’s ideal congregation would be one where these efforts would produce a people who are of one mind and living in peace.
Paul understands that face to face contact is important. We have replaced Paul’s holy kiss with a hug, although a kiss is more intimate and requires greater trust. A kiss, even on the cheek, brings us face to face. After this past year of isolation due to the pandemic, I look forward to opportunities to hug and be hugged by people I care about.
Paul’s final blessing conveys a beautiful picture of the trinity. Paul never uses the term, but he expresses the concept here as clearly as anywhere. This is not a theological treatise, but a simple expression of Paul’s understanding of who God is. First, God is the indescribable gift of Jesus, God come to earth in human form. Second, at the core, God is love, the extraordinary love that motivates all that God does. Third, God is a community builder through the power and presence of His Spirit.
I think the most difficult thing Paul had to endure was solitude. Paul was not a loner. He always wanted people with him, and he wanted his children to experience similar relationships to the ones he depended on. He cared deeply about the people he was away from. He never stayed long in one place, but he built a community of brothers and sisters that he could call on wherever he went.