Aim for restoration,
comfort one another,
agree with one another,
live in peace;
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
–2 Corinthians 13:11, ESV
Paul gives this checklist of instructions to the Corinthian church as he closes a heartfelt letter to them full of both encouragement and exhortation. These final words encapsulate the desires of Paul’s heart for the church. The Corinthians needed to hear them; and we need to hear them no less today.
“Aim for restoration”….I love that phrase! The original language carries with it the meaning of mending, making complete, or perfecting. As I read this passage, the Lord convicted me that all too often, when I hit a rough patch in a relationship or in an assignment He has called me to live out, I take the route of complaining or venting to others instead of aiming for restoration.
I want to always aim for restoration. I may not be able to achieve it; indeed, only the Spirit of God can bring about true restoration. But I can aim for it. “Aiming” has a purposeful sort of intention in its meaning; it involves keeping something in sight, staying focused on it with concentration. When I aim at something, it changes my perspective and narrows my field of vision.
I heard John Maxwell say recently, “What we focus on is what expands.” Let’s expand our capacity for healing and restoration by adjusting our aim, and focusing on the right things.
The next item on Paul’s checklist is “comfort one another.” The word translated “comfort” is the Greek word “parakaleō.” It is from the root word “paráklētos,” which is the name for our divine Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The word Paul uses means to invite near for comfort, consolation, or exhortation. Here is what author and theologian N.T. Wright says about it:
“Actually, the word…is a bit more many-sided than ‘comfort.’ It can mean ‘to call someone to come near,’ ‘to make a strong appeal or exhortation,’ or ‘to treat in an inviting or friendly way.’ The whole idea of the word is that one person is being with another, speaking words which change their mood and situation, giving them courage, new hope, new direction, new insights which will alter the way they face the next moment, the next day, the rest of their life.”
The Holy Spirit invites us near, draws us to His side, and pours out consolation into our hearts. In the same way, we in turn are to walk alongside others and share in their lives. As we do so, the comfort of the Holy Spirit can then flow through us to bring encouragement to them. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God comforts us in our affliction “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Paul ends with the exhortations to “agree with one another, live in peace.” Easy to say…harder to practice! Other translations say, “Be of one mind.” I have written already in earlier blogs about the commands Jesus gives us to love one another and live in unity; but as we continue to strive towards this goal, let’s remember the common saying that unity doesn’t mean uniformity. We may feel very differently about many issues, but we can still agree with one another in the Person of Jesus and our bond in Him. And when we’re confronted by those who are not in agreement, we can still be agreeable and loving. Think of it like this: when we eat too much of the wrong foods, or perhaps food that has gone bad, we suffer discomfort and say, “that food didn’t agree with me!” Most of us (hopefully) are careful to eat things that will “agree” with our physical body. The same principle applies on the spiritual level. Those around us take in the words we say, the things we post on social media, and the actions we take…so let’s be even more careful to not cause the spiritual Body “indigestion!”
All of this ties in directly with Paul's last instruction to "live in peace."
Because living with love must be a reality before living in peace can become one.
How are you doing with this checklist? Paul closes by saying that if we follow these instructions, “the God of love and peace will be with [us].”
And that is most certainly what we all need.