2 Corinthians 13:5-14 – New International Version (NIV)
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
There is a blockbuster movie that premiered last week called “The Fault in Our Stars.” It is the story of three teenagers with cancer who meet in a support group for teenagers with cancer. Isaac, Hazel, and Augustus each have different types of cancer in different stages of illness. Hazel says cancer is a side effect of death and that all her symptoms are symptoms of the side effect. Each of the teenagers are dying in varying stages.
Isaac, Hazel, and Gus may not have had much in common had they not been sick. But, they are sick and they share their journey with one another as they move in and out of remission and treatment and surgery and death. None of them had faith in Christ, but they believed that somehow life continued after death. They had the same belief and the same side effect of death and similar journeys. They found the companionship they needed for the journey in the support group with others surviving and fighting and dying.
Movies and television shows have so many examples of people bonding over shared experiences. There are storm troopers and Jedi knights fighting for intergalactic peace. Starship crews exploring unchartered galaxies. Fellow students caught in Saturday morning detention. Four girls sharing a house in their golden years. Friends traversing dating in the Big Apple. Men, women and children singing spirituals in the cotton fields. Young adults who always get the prime couch spot in a coffee shop near Central Park.
Cinema understands the deep human need for companionship that drives each of us to form groups with people with whom we have things in common. We all have support groups in our lives. Friends, co-workers, PTO, Legion club members, sorority sisters, farming co-ops, men having coffee at Casey’s, sports teams…and us, the church. It is the Holy Spirit that draws us to those groups and to the church.
In 2 Corinthians and in many of Paul’s writings, he tells us that the Spirit comes to give us gifts for one purpose – for the common good…for one another. This idea of one another was important to Paul. He uses the phrase one another 31 times in his New Testament writings. Our time, talents, and gifts draw us to people in a variety of groups to share our experiences. Our gifts are for the common good of the group. Paul is specifically talking about one group, the church, the body of Christ. He tells us how to be with one another throughout his writings. He says,
“Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another.” (Romans 12:10).
“Live in harmony with one another.”
“Love one another.”
(Romans 13:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:9).
“Stop passing judgment on one another.”
“Accept one another.” (Romans 15:7).
“Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14).
“Greet one another.” (Romans 16:16,
1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12).
“Agree with one another.” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
“Encourage one another.”
(2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 1
Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13,
“Serve one another humbly in love.”
“Bear with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2).
“Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other. (Ephesians 4:32).
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and
songs…” (Ephesians 5:19).
“Submit to one another out of reverence for
Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21).
“In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
“Forgive one another.” (Colossians 3:13).
“Admonish one another.” (Colossians 3:16).
“Spur one another on toward love
and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24).
“Keep on loving one another as
brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 13:1).
Paul has specific instructions for this Corinthian church regarding one another. He says, “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Paul writes this 2nd letter to the church in Corinth who is being torn into factions. He wrote a 1st letter to them about the sins with which they had been struggling. They continue to struggle and Paul feels the need to write another letter. There is some good news that has been shared with Paul about the community, but there is still division in the church. In Chapter 12 (verse 20), Paul lists the community’s qualities that disturb and worry him, including “quarreling, jealously, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder”. Paul warns that if he has to come for a 3rd visit it won’t be pretty, it won’t go well, he’ll have to get ugly with them.
Paul’s advice to them for overcoming their division is to “strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Paul’s exhortation to the community comes in the closing, this final chapter, of the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. He doesn’t say just get along; he says, be reconciled, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace. “It is an exhortation for the Corinthians to be the new creation that the Spirit is equipping them to be.” For Paul, “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
The reconciliation, encouragement, agreement, and peace that Paul speaks of are only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws us together then equips us to be the church which honors, loves, accepts, instructs, greets, agrees, encourages, serves, speaks, submits, forgives, admonishes one another. Being all those things to one another is a sign of the transformative work of the Spirit.
We may not have much in common. We may not like the same books or movies, or work at the same place or in the same field, or belong to the same social groups, or enjoy the same music. What we have in common is our faith in Christ and that is why we gather as a group. We are one body; there is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God of all (Ephesians 4:4 – 5).
Paul tells the church to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” “Greeting one another with a holy kiss would be a tangible way for the church to show their love and fellowship in a community that is struggling to love one another and who are still learning how to be Christ’s body in their world.”
I know how much you love to greet one another during service. But, I want you to give it a try this morning. I would like you to get up, walk around, shake hands, hug, whatever feels comfortable. Don’t just greet the ones in the pews in front of and behind you. Get in the aisles, cross the aisles, greet one another.
I’ll leave you with Paul’s final words to the Corinthians: 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.