The end of a challenging, and at times painful, letter ends with Christ’s desire for all God’s children – that we live in peace, agreement, grace, communion, and love. It’s a brave and gentle reminder that we are not all about the law – the words that accuse, condemn, and correct. We are also about the gospel – words and actions of peace, harmony, and love.
We live in a world where imperfection is not allowed. We stand as eager judges, ready to condemn anyone who drives too fast or too slow, who is too liberal or too conservative, too fat or too thin, too black or too white, too male or too female, too passive or too aggressive – basically anyone who is not us. What kind of boring and ineffective world would it be if everyone was exactly like me?
I’ve learned to appreciate the differences where once I despised them. When my car breaks down I am genuinely surprised and pleased that there are people in the world who have a passion for getting greasy and mechanical (neither of which are gifts of mine). When I get pricked at the doctor’s office I am in awe that there are people who not only tolerate the ugliness of illness, but who truly enjoy the mystery of how to facilitate healing. (At a recent doctor’s visit I had to have an unpleasant procedure done, and I swear my usually somber and emotionless doctor was positively giddy at getting to do the procedure! I imagine it gets really boring when you spend your life training to heal and instead spend most of your days conversing and filling out paperwork.) Thank heavens there are people gifted at building skyscrapers – if it was left to me we would all live in huts made of fallen tree branches and muddy leaves.
It is much harder to appreciate people whose differences I find offensive or downright dangerous. I cannot wrap my brain around a willingness to harm another because you don’t agree with their politics, lifestyle, sexuality, or other. I’ll never understand rounding up entire ethnicities, deporting them, and decimating whole communities overnight. But somehow I must learn to love those who express their intolerance – not to love them would be an expression of my own intolerance – a hypocrisy, for sure. I must remember that those people bring gifts too – gifts I do not possess, and without which this world would not function as it ought. I do the best I can and rejoice when Christ’s love ekes out of me despite myself.
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.