Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings.2 Corinthians 13:11-12
It is wonderful that this last word is a word of peace. The apostle sees beyond all the fragmentation in Corinth to the basic unity of the church. God created that unity, and it is there even though there is divisiveness, quarreling, jealousy, and division in the assembly. Christians belong to each other. They are part of the family of God, and they ought to act that way, he says. Beyond the rebellion he sees the grace and the power of God, which is able to heal these breaches and restore people even to the point where they are able to give a holy kiss to one another. That was the standard greeting of that day. (We have lost that today, although some cultures retain that tradition. Today we have substituted a handshake, but I am happy when I see Christians greeting one another with hugs. Hugs are a much warmer and more accurate expression of Christian love and acceptance, one with another.)
The apostle is urging this upon these Christians:
Change your ways. If Jesus Christ is in you, you can do it. That is his point. You cannot go on living like everybody else if Jesus Christ lives in you. This is the fundamental reason there must be a difference in Christians.
I was driving down the freeway one day, and a car cut in front of me, almost driving me off the road; then it cut ahead of the car in front of me. I noticed a bumper sticker on it that said,
The difference in me is Jesus. I was not much impressed, and neither is the world impressed when they look at us and see us behaving just like everyone else. We are not to behave that way in our personal lives, because Christ is in us. We are not to behave in our corporate life that way, because Christ is among us. We are to be friendly, loving, open, and forgiving--not condemnatory, narrow, and bitter. We are different because Christ is among us.
Notice how the apostle closes. What a beautiful greeting this is. It is the clearest reference to the Trinity that there is in the New Testament:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. What a gracious word from this great apostle as he closes this letter to the church at Corinth! History does not tell us what happened in the church there, whether it was able to recover and obey this word or not. But Paul has left with us a tremendous testimony as to what constitutes Christianity at work in a pagan world. We are called to live in Corinthian conditions today. I hope and pray that these letters to the Corinthian church will mean much to us, that we too will obey the word of the apostle and recognize that when Jesus Christ is among us, we cannot be the same kind of people.
Thank You, Lord, that You are with me. You have sent me out into this world. I pray that I may behave as a person in whom Jesus Christ lives.
When faced with stressful divisiveness, quarreling, and/or jealousy in our personal & corporate lives, how and why can we remain friendly, loving, open, and forgiving?