October 11: Don’t Give Up on the Church

2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And so 2 Corinthians comes to an end with this glorious farewell statement. It is a summation of all that is in this letter. Paul wraps up the letter with some imperatives wrapped up in the ultimate indicative – our union with the Trinity.

The imperatives he gives here reflect all that he has struggled through in this letter, and all that we struggle through as Christians in a church. Be restored to each other, encourage each other, agree with each other, live peacefully with each other.

Paul is both describing and calling for a unified, caring, and forgiving church. When you read this letter, you may be tempted to think there is no hope for them. But Paul thinks there is. He calls them brothers and sisters. They are in the faith. They have Jesus Christ in them (13:9). They are letters of the New Covenant (ch.3); they are the New Creation and Ambassadors for Christ (ch.5).

I don’t know where you are today, but maybe you have given up on the church. Maybe your church, or the church that hurt you is a lot like Corinth. Maybe it’s full of disputes, and disagreements. Don’t give up on the church. Aim for restoration. Take the first step. I know you’ve been hurt. But I also know that your issues with the church are actually rooted in your issues with God. Reconciliation with God never comes apart from restoration with the Church of God. And restoration at church never comes apart from being reconciled to God.

Notice what Paul says in verse 11 – and the God of peace will be with you. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Peace? Shalom? But it only comes through right relating with the church – other Christians. So I say again, don’t give up on the church.

Claim the promise of verse 11. It’s not law, it’s promise. A promise of the experience of God’s presence as we by grace, through faith, obey. Remember, this is addressed to brothers (and sisters). That is, to those who are already children of promise, placed within the New Covenant by grace, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In Paul’s mind (and mine) it is simply impossible for a Christian to not be being transformed (3:18). Therefore, New Covenant imperatives are not legalistic commands simply to be obeyed or else. They are promises to be enjoyed. Are you enjoying the peace of God today? If not, could it have anything to do with your relationship with the church? Just asking. 

But how? How do I begin to even want to be restored to the church? By your union with the Trinity.

Union with Christ is union with the Trinity. There is no greater thought, no greater truth than this. No other religion espouses or proposes this, that you can find yourself in a union with the deity who created you. That you can experience his grace, love, and fellowship. This is the greatest of loves – union with Christ.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – Jesus is grace embodied. He is the grace of God within a single human life. A life that is in you. Trusting in Jesus as God’s indwelling grace is the test of faith. Christ as grace will allow you to see past the people of your church and see Jesus instead.

The love of God – The love of God comes from a God who is love. He doesn’t just love sometimes. All that he does is love. This love of God, like the grace of Jesus, also indwells you. When we trust in his love for us we can risk it all in church, in relating. If the church fails to love us, God won’t. Is that enough for you?

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit – The indwelling Spirit brings us into participation with God and with the Body of Christ. What an amazing and humbling thought, that the Trinity would want to do life alongside of us, in participation with us. A Christian without church is simply not living up to his or her purpose. We were saved to participate, to fellowship, to share a common mission. Are you on mission?

v. 14 is what makes v 11-12 possible. v. 14 is “to live is Christ.”

What is your relationship to church? Have you sought restoration, peace, agreement and comfort? How does union with Christ, and the whole Trinity, empower you to selflessly love the church and seek restoration?

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