By Mike Chaffin
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All of God’s people here send you their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (NLT)
Paul closes his letter with “these last words.” These aren’t just throwaway last words. They have meat on them intended to emphasis the important teachings of the entire letter. These last words are easy to remember so we the reader can go do them.
Paul makes it seem simple with his first command. Be joyful. A lot of self-help books have been written trying to help people find their joy. But if our joy isn’t grounded in Christ it doesn’t last. Jesus emphasized his teaching on joy when in John 17:13 prayed,
But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
Jesus prayed this for us in the upper room prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. I want Jesus’s joy living in me. We get that when we accept Jesus as our Savior and invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in all we do.
Grow in maturity is the second easy command to remember. Some say easier said than done, but the term discipleship and sanctification go hand in hand on the road to Christian maturity. Get into a good Bible study, read the word daily, pray daily, seek God daily. All these grow us into maturity.
Encourage each other. Such a great command. This involves sowing our life into others. Helping them to grow in maturity. Being there as a good neighbor. Listening to the needs and hurts of those around us and responding. It might just take the form of a hug, a letter, or a short note telling someone you are praying for them. It could be you are called to mentor someone. Mentoring is an act of encouragement.
Live in harmony and peace is an essential part of our witness. Peter has the best teaching on this subject when he wrote in 1 Peter 3:10-12,
For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” when accosted. Peter adds we should be ready to give a defense for the reason of our hope in Christ, with meekness and fear. Fear here doesn’t mean to be afraid, but reverent. It is reverence for the person asking, creating a climate of peace.
Lastly, Paul sends his love for the reader. Such great last words. Maybe it’s time we start ending our letters with the same short prayer “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Last words showing our love.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for these great last words so easy to remember, but sometimes so hard to live out. Restore my joy. Help me to grow in maturity, encourage others, and live in harmony and peace. In Jesus name, amen.