2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Be restored; listen to my appeal; agree with one another; live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
The passage we read today is quite brief. It comes from the end of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that he planted. At the end of the letter, he tells the Corinthian Christians—
Be restored; listen to my appeal; agree with one another; live in PEACE; and the God of love and peace will be with you.2 Corinthians 13:11
The word ‘peace’ in Greek is EIRENE. It means ‘to join or bind together what has been separated’. Peace has to do with a sense of wholeness, being complete. The absence of peace implies that something remains broken and divided.
We often experience a lack of peace in our lives. Fear and anxiety constantly strike our hearts. We feel conflicted and torn. No wonder we are always under a tremendous amount of stress and tension. We rarely feel all that together.
Jesus saw that clearly in people. He saw how divided and conflicted people’s hearts were. That’s why he said to his disciples—
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.John 14:27
But this wasn’t the only time. After the resurrection, Jesus found his disciples in a room. They had locked themselves out of fear of being found out as his followers. Not only once, but twice he said to them—
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”John 20:19
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”John 20:21
What does that tell you? We need peace in our lives. Peace is the essential ingredient to a healthy and vibrant life. Without peace, we can’t be happy. Without peace, we can’t stand strong in times of trouble. Without peace, we can’t live our life with joy.
Peace doesn’t mean we have no fears and worries. We may think that way about peace. “I can only feel peaceful when there is no problem in my life.” So we try to create a problem-free life. That may give us a momentary bliss, but we find that anxiety soon creeps into our hearts again.
We can experience peace even when we are in the midst of a storm. Peace has to do with power that is greater than the power of our fears and worries. Peace is what we find in God, not what we try to create. That’s the chorus of the song, “Still”.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God.
There once lived a woman named Julian of Norwich. She lived in the 14th and 15th centuries. She dedicated her life to God after meeting him while she was very ill and almost near death. She survived her illness but came out of it totally changed. She experienced a glimpse of God’s love. In her experience of God’s love, she realized that no matter what is happens in our life, good or bad, God will make everything okay in the end. Everything will turn out for good. All will be well. She believed peace comes from trusting in God’s goodness. This was what she wrote—
Peace and love are always present within us, living and laboring, but we unfortunately do not always abide in peace and love.Julian of Norwich
Peace is not something that just comes and goes. God’s peace is already present. We simply need to abide in it. Peace is what we choose to live.
Finding our inner peace is important. But peace doesn’t only mean inner peace. Peace also has to do with an outer peace.
Outer peace is when there is harmony in our relationships. When people fight and are in conflict with each other, the outer peace is shattered. When there is no outer peace, it also disturbs our inner peace. It’s hard to focus when I get upset with someone or when I know that someone is upset with me. It also makes it hard to sleep. We can strive for outer peace when we find our inner peace.
So, to live in peace means two things: First, finding our inner peace in God. Second, bringing outer peace to our relationships with others. They are intertwined.
Bringing peace is living a life of reconciliation. Reconciling means overcoming any division, conflict and hatred through love. That was the core of Jesus’ life and ministry. He came to restore and bind what was separated. Our relationship to God. Our relationship to each other. Our relationship to the created world. St. Paul saw that clearly. That’s why when he talks about living in peace in today’s passage, it is connected to living in harmony with each other. The NIV translation brings out the meaning more clearly—
Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
It is not easy to live in harmony with people. Last week, I talked about how church is full of diverse people and how their diverse gifts bless the community. What also happens when a diverse group of people live and journey together? You also have diverse kinds of conflicts and problems. We see this especially in church. We each have our own baggage. That means when we come together with others, we will end up dealing with each other’s baggage. We will get annoyed and frustrated. We will even get hurt and angry. We will want nothing to do with those people.
It wasn’t easy for St. Paul to write this letter. Some of the people in the Corinthian church spread rumours about him. It hurt him deeply. Yet he didn’t use the letter to attack them in return. He was sincere and honest about how he felt, but in the end he put his feelings aside to speak to them about the importance of living in peace with each other. Paul led by example.
Instead of letting our conflicts divide us, we can take the better road towards peace. Human relationships are so fragile. They can be so easily broken. Let the peace of God calm your anger and frustration. God will grant you love, patience, and understanding so that you can strive to live in peace with others. Your inner peace will be strengthened.