11: "Now, brothers and sisters, I say good-bye. Try to be complete. Do what I have asked you to do. Agree with each other, and live in peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you." - "Be perfect - Aspire to the highest degree of holiness. Be of good comfort - Filled with divine consolation. Be of one mind - Desire, labour, pray for it, to the utmost degree that is possible." (John Wesley)
12: "Greet each other with a holy kiss. All of God's holy people send greetings to you." - We are to remember and embrace the fellowship we gain as Christians through the holiness God's love.
13: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." - This benediction at the end of a difficult letter points us to the Holy Trinity and reminds us of Christ's sacrifice, God's love, and the willingness of the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to create a holy kinship.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you living in peace?
Or are you finding yourself embroiled in dispute after dispute? Paul's second letter to the Corinthians was written to calm a dispute-filled church and to respond to attacks on his character. When you are attacked, do you get defensive? Do you retaliate? Do you spread gossip and innuendo? Or do you reach out in love as Paul did to the Corinthians? Do you "try to be complete?" Do you "aspire to the highest degree of holiness?" When you give in to the bitterness of dispute and forgo your aspirations of holiness, who benefits? When you act in this way are you building the kingdom of heaven or wallowing in the domain of Satan?
Do you greet others with a "holy kiss?" Or are you superficial in your greetings? Do you really love those you meet in Christian fellowship? Are you able to set aside your worries, concerns, and personal issues in order to embrace your fellow Christians as the precious children of God that they are? Do you love them in spite of their struggle to be holy in all things? Do you want them to love you in spite of your lack of holiness?
How do you achieve holiness? Is there a formula for success? At some point do you expect to attain holiness - live Christ-like in all aspects of your life? Or is this an illusive unobtainable goal? At times do you feel you are gaining ground only to realize that you have slipped and fallen in your pursuit of holiness? Are you working hard and seeing little evidence of improvement? Paul's final benediction is a clue - the Holy Trinity is there to help. Do you see that the Holy Spirit is within you in order to help you with your struggles at holiness? Can you learn to lean into His guidance and teaching in order to carry you through your struggles with developing loving fellowship with others? Promises of the Gospel:
Faith is not about shallow niceties which hide deep rivalries and division. It is about belonging together. For Paul it was more than simply a few issues facing a local community or more than defending his own character. Paul is writing to protect the entire Christian community, the body of Christ, into whom we all are baptized. All the saints, that is, all who embrace God's holiness offered to them in Christ, are brothers and sisters. This still means there is a very large bunch of imperfect believers, but it is a group bound together in the acknowledging love and grace of Christ. It is not about everyone agreeing on everything but about finding the common ground which makes fellowship possible, the Holy Spirit. Any time discourse and heated debate dominate our lives we ought to remember Paul's words to the Corinthians: "Be at peace!"