May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14 NLT
Hmm…unpacking that a bit…what does it mean? And, more importantly, what does it look like?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…
Grace means getting what you don’t deserve.
So what does the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” look like?
How Jesus demonstrated grace: Seeing people from the inside, out. Focusing on the fact that she was a fellow creation of His Father before He saw her gender. Or her skin color. How she was dressed. Her occupation. Intentionally seeing first the eternal part of her. Like Jesus chose to see the woman at the well (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8).
(Grace Applied: Seeing the people in my life from the inside, out. Focusing on the fact that he is a fellow creation of the Great Creator before I see him. Regardless of his gender. His skin color. How he is dressed. His occupation. His politics. His habits. His sin. Like Jesus sees me.)
How Jesus demonstrated grace: Being patient with those in process, even when they drove Him over the edge with their lack of progress. Like the disciples. Over and over again. When James and John wanted Jesus to destroy a town because they were mean to Him – demonstrating that they didn’t comprehend His command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Luke 9; Matthew 5) Like Jesus explaining over and over again His death was coming – but that resurrection would come, too – and being rebuked by the guy with the biggest mouth in the bunch for saying the wrong thing. (Matthew 16)
(Grace Applied: Being patient with those in process, even when they just don’t get it. Whether that is my Facebook friend, my neighbor across the street, my friend from church or myself. ALL works in progress. ALL wrong in some ways and right in others. ALL in the process of “becoming”.)
…the love of God…
That would be “agape” in the Greek.
Unconditional, never-ending, sacrificial love.
So what does the “love of God” look like?
How God loves: Choosing to love even the most unlovable simply because they have value as an eternal being, a creature created by Love Himself. Choosing to believe the best about her because “love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”. (I Corinthians 13) Choosing to love her even if – or when- she does not love Him.
(Love Applied: Choosing to choose. Decision overcoming emotion. Choosing to believe the best. Choosing to consider another’s needs before my own. (Philippians 2) Choosing to lay down my life for another. (John 15) Giving up my rights. My right for retribution. My right to be loved in return. My right to be understood. My right to have rights. Choosing to love without strings, without condition, without reservation.)
“…and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
“Fellowship” is also translated “communion” in other versions.
Some translations use the word “friendship.”
Paul put it this way in Galatians: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Keeping in step with the Spirit: Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct, bearing fruit as He chooses (Galatians 5), obeying Him every time, being sure to not quench whatever it is He wants to do. (I Thessalonians 5).
(Keeping in step with the Spirit applied: Listening to that still, small voice that says, “You are not being like Jesus at the moment” – and then changing my behavior. Guarding my tongue. Looking away from that temptation. Fleeing that tempter.
Or, obeying the inner prompting that says, “Go over and do this kind deed.” Buy the lunch for the stranger. Stop to help the person on the side of the road. Sponsor the child in another land. Smile at my mean neighbor. Not running ahead of His Spirit. Not lagging behind in disobedience. Keeping in step. Each step. One at a time.)
What would happen if we lived this prayer, this benediction?
What would happen if we truly believed what it said and then lived out what it means?
If we truly gave grace like Jesus does?
If we chose to love as God loves?
And if we kept our lives in step with the Holy Spirit, day by day and heartbeat to heartbeat? What would happen?
How different our world would look!
How different we would look!
So, today, my prayer for you (and me) is this:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.