Today we read Paul’s final benediction to the somewhat unpredictable Corinthian church. His closing remarks in 2 Cor. 13:11-14 remind me of ones you might hear at a graduation ceremony. Poignant. Succinct. Meaningful. If you recall over the past few chapters, Paul has addressed these city-dwellers with instructions on how to live life. These are real people with real problems and real jobs and real families and real churches. We often detach ourselves from the stories in the Bible, rather than stepping in to identify. Paul ends the book of Corinthians with clear instruction, which is applicable for us today:
Don’t store up head knowledge about Jesus…get out and live it too.
Aim for restoration.
Comfort one another.
Agree with one another.
Live in peace.
There are 2 basic commandments in the New Testament. Love God and Love Others (Mark 12:30-31). Do you see it here? I think too often we stop short. We are satisfied in our endeavor to love God, never giving mind to the second command which is to love others well. Paul is pushing for spiritual maturity, which is manifested in loving others as ourselves.
We can become comfortable in our pursuit of Jesus by going to church, attending a small group, skimming the Bible, hanging out with like-minded people…and start to think, “Hey, I’ve got this Christian thing down.” I can check the box. However, Paul is admonishing us not to settle for the status quo. Don’t stop. Get off the couch. Go ahead, and jump in. There’s more for you to do!
And then in v. 12, Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We even dismiss this verse as something that no longer applies. But bear with me for a moment: the holy kiss represents a deep warmth of community that is extremely rare to find. It signals deep affection, care, and concern…the kind that is in for the long-haul, through thick and thin. No cultural barriers. No social walls. No racial differences. No prejudices. The main point of the holy kiss is to remind us to have sincere devotion and affection towards one another.
Paul is laboring for them to see that true Christian love is not merely shown in action or spoken in words…but it is genuinely felt in our heart. Our affection toward one another should be tender, warm, humble, pure, empathetic, and kind. There should be a precious sweetness when you meet another brother or sister in Christ.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8
And last but not least, we get there by the grace, love and fellowship of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (v. 14).
We cling to the grace of Jesus, who took our place on the cross.
We focus on the love of God, who sent His son to die.
We commune with the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things.
What does it look like to love others as yourself? Is your brotherly love genuine?
P.S. This ends our study of 2 Corinthians. I hope you have enjoyed journeying with me along the way. Continue to dig deep. Stay focused. Gaze upward.