If I didn’t know better, I’d think my forsythia was doomed to die soon! The leaves are going dark and falling to the ground. The cold, dark winter lies before us.
But winter isn’t the end! There is still life coursing through these twiggy branches, and in the spring they will once again pop with bright yellow blooms.
We’re finishing up our look at 2 Corinthians 13:11, which ends with a promise for those who follow its instructions.
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.2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
You can visit the earlier posts in this series for more on each goal we should be working towards, but here’s a quick recap:
- Be Joyful Living in joy takes practice as we consistently check our thoughts and attitudes, making adjustments where necessary.
- Grow to Maturity Our level of maturity affects how we see and treat those around us. Focusing our heart on growing in our new life begins to crowd out the ways of the old.
- Encourage Each Other Encouragement takes an extra step of intentional contemplation, understanding where another believer is in their walk of faith and what it would take to build them up in it.
- Live in Harmony and Peace This truly is a choice we can live in when we lay down our own desires.
Finally we reach the promise!
“Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”
The God of Love
Do you remember the greatest two commandments? They both require love.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40
Considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), encouraging one another and living in harmony with others are all different aspects of loving our neighbors. At the same time, obeying God’s command to love others is evidence of our love for Him.
When we choose to live in love, we are obeying Christ’s command, which says, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34b-35).
We are called to imitate our heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:1), the God of love. He is love! If this is so, should we not be increasingly living in love for the world around us?
Notice that the promise doesn’t say, “And the people of the world will rejoice in your presence and love you to the end.” Nor does it say, “And your life will be smooth sailing both now and forevermore.”
But it does promise that the God of love, the very Author of love itself, will be with you.
The God of Peace
We are encouraged earlier in the verse to live in harmony and peace with one another. The promise follows that the God of peace will be with us.
What comes to your mind when you put God and peace together? I remember the peace between me and God that Christ bought with his life, purchasing a way across the great divide between my sin and God’s holiness. But that’s not the kind of peace promised here.
This peace is more like the peace Jesus had while sleeping in the boat in the middle of the storm. No worries bothered his mind as the boat rocked him in his sleep! His trust in his heavenly Father was complete.
In living in harmony with others through the power of His Spirit, we become answers to Christ’s prayer: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:20-21).
Living in love and harmony with others is not a golden ticket to the good life, but it is a sign to the fallen world we live in. It makes them wonder how we do it, and why we bother doing it at all! It is not a guarantee that they will treat us better, or that things will go well for us. In fact, things just may get worse. They may call us strange and ostracize us, they may test us and try to turn us into all the things we don’t want to be, or they may outright reject us.
But our answer isn’t found in them.
Our promise is securely established in the God of love and peace.
The forsythia is beginning to look pretty sad, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. There may be dark days ahead, but the spring is coming!
And so it is with God. He will be with us as we choose joy, maturity, love and harmony in our journey of faith in Him, whether we’re aware of His presence or not.
So don’t lose heart, my friend! Continue to seek His face, and take daily steps of obedience to His voice. You will find Him to be your Rock of Refuge and your Bright Morning Star. Before long you’ll barely recognize the you that used to be!