Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but he was not at all willing to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Now, brothers and sisters, you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.
The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord. All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians ends with some words which at one level seem more about practical details than deep theological questions. But we treat such passages lightly at our peril. In these few verses Paul has picked up key points from the main content of his letter, he has reminded his readers of the importance of their relationships and above all of the need to surround all that they do in love.
This is someone else’s correspondence we are reading and there are details which point to the ‘history’ which is part of the fabric of that community, the ongoing disagreements, the past suspicions. We can recognise them from our own experience. This was a world where travel was difficult, communications limited and daily life hard.
And yet ….. and yet …… over the 2000 years since Paul wrote to the churches around the Mediterranean so much remains the same.
In every sentence we see evidence of Paul’s purpose in writing, this is someone with a mission to shape the life of the church by his presence or through his writing. There are words here about cementing the relationships with each other, with Paul and with other leaders. There are pointers to examples of ‘good practice’ to be followed in service and mission. There are reminders that their life in Christ necessarily involves being a part of the wider network and sharing the good news. And crucially, that sentence which leaves no doubt “Let all that you do be done in love”. Finally, Paul takes up the pen himself to cement his relationship with his readers.
Relationships, good practice in service and mission, our global interconnectedness and love. Surely the heart of the message for the 21st century as much as for the 1st century.
Loving God, we thank you for the relationships we have with the people who surround us we recognise our interconnectedness with those across the globe. We pray that we may never break the bonds which link us in love. Amen
Val Morrison, elder and former General Assembly Moderator, Hall Gate, Doncaster