I love to listen to classical music, and I appreciate it even more when I can experience it live. I am fascinated by the way composers creatively bring together so many otherwise disharmonious instruments into such well-constructed movements. What a joy to see a conductor draw each unique instrument into harmony!
Music played well is truly a powerful force that resonates within us. So, too, when God’s people come together in sweet harmony. We have a special word for this—fellowship.
In a recent study in 1 and 2 Corinthians, I was impressed with Paul’s great love for people who seemed to relish disharmony. So much of his writing required him to remind them to be one in the Spirit and one in the body of Christ. They never seemed to “get it.” So, with the love of a father, Paul kept on reminding them.
Long after my patience would have worn out, Paul steadfastly demonstrated the love of Christ, despite the many reasons he had to just write them off. This was especially true as he brought 2 Corinthians to a close. He saw his role as one who was charged by God to build up and not tear down (2 Corinthians 13:10). He urged believers in Corinth to live in fellowship with one another, seeing each person as an integral member of the body of Christ.
Paul wasn’t content to leave things there. He gave them a final series of commands to enhance their fellowship with the Lord and one another (2 Corinthians 13:11):
Aim for restoration
Comfort one another
Agree with one another
Live in peace
At first blush, it would appear as if Paul didn’t understood them at all, because these were certainly lofty goals for them to fulfill at his command. Then again, Paul knew not only the Corinthians but their hearts as well. He saw them as the redeemed of the Lord.
In that same way, we are broken and seemingly incapable of fulfilling Paul’s commands. Yet, like the Corinthians, we are the redeemed of the Lord. We can rejoice, because it is a fitting response to all the Lord has done and provided for us.
Where things really get tough is when it is no longer just our individual response to the Lord, but, as we lean in further, to “aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace”; all that “one another” business and the emotional energy needed to “aim for restoration” and “live in peace” are pretty hard to come by.
Paul is orchestrating his masterpiece in the hearts and minds of the Corinthians. He knows full well that none of us is able to fulfill his final commands to the Corinthians in and of ourselves. We need one another. We need fellowship.
Like the orchestral conductor, Paul brings together the disharmonious “instruments” of the church, urging us one last time to live in sweet harmony to honor God and to honor Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do you seek to live in such “sweet harmony”? What happens when a community of believers truly join hearts with one another as Paul commands to experience fellowship with God and one another?
For more information about how you can stay the course, refer to The Wheel illustration. The Fellowship Spoke. God has directed Christians to build each other up through inter-dependence and loving relationships with each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). Gathering together as the body of Christ draws God close around us as we praise Him and encourage one another (Matthew 18:20).