Friday, September 9, 2011

Enjoying God’s Embrace

“Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” ~2 Corinthians 13:11 (NRSV).

The letters to the Corinthians are difficult. They were difficult for the Apostle Paul, as surely they were difficult for the Corinthians. And they can be difficult for us, as we’d prefer to perceive joy and grace glistening from every page.

Five Imperatives

As is Paul’s custom, this sign-off is punchy and direct. He is using single Greek word concepts to finish with a bang. Until now the theme has been patiently adversarial, but in such a way that should leave the Corinthians strong, and Paul weak—for the message of reconciliation has been sent forth.

1. Farewell (Rejoice)

What Paul is saying when he says “farewell” is really, “rejoice.”

The sweet Presence of the Lord is known when we’ve faced conflict, yet out the other side both of us are resolved with each another. Mutual respect has been maintained, even buoyed. It’s sound reason to rejoice. The impasse has passed.

The apostle is being very gracious here. The olive branch of mutual respect has been extended, even though the Corinthians have not been so gracious.

2. Maintain Order

There were varying levels of sin that the Corinthians were involved in. Some were involved in the profane, whilst all of them, it would appear, were involved in discord, envy, slander, conceit, and the like.

This is just as relevant to our churches today. How harmonious are our fellowships?

3. Listen

Paul is beseeching them to listen up; to act upon his appeal. He seeks for them to be of the same mind as the Lord (see Philippians 4:2).

We know, ourselves, how quickly we stop listening to the Spirit of God. The importance of discipleship is constant; we need our daily fill.

4. Encourage One Another

To “agree with one another” is to encourage one another. The Corinthians struggled to love in this sort of way, preferring dissonance and disparity.

If we encourage one another, we align in one mind—the will of God for the Body of Christ. This is the outcome we must always seek; anything other than unity is grieving God’s Spirit.

5. Be At Peace

There were clearly factions within the Corinthian church.

The key test for any church is unity. Fellowship enjoyed at peace, as the theme of that assembled throng, is a key sign that God is healthily there and the Spirit, vibrant.

Peace is reconciliation, a major theme of 2 Corinthians.

The Promise Of God’s Presence

An affirmative response to the abovementioned imperatives brings the promise of God faithfulness—the blessed experience of God’s Presence.

This is nothing to be taken for granted. Everything that God offers is available eternally, but to only those churches and individuals with the mind of Christ. The knowledge of God’s peace, as it permeates our spirits, is conditional upon surrender in mutual love.

The Lord is, after all, a God of love and peace. We know how to enjoy God’s embrace. There is no rocket science in pleasing God.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians: A Commentary – The New Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), pp. 312-13.

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