It must have been one of the most difficult letters for the Apostle Paul to write. He knew these people.  He had lived in Corinth for at least eighteen months – working, preaching, teaching and fellowshipping. The city was infested with corruption and had earned the notorious immoral distinction of being a wicked hub of vice and vulgarity. But God had worked and in marvelous grace, precious souls were saved. Precious souls – with lots of baggage.

A local church was established and of course, wherever you find people (outside of Heaven) there will be failures, problems and a good share of fiction too – to ignite the fires of friction. Paul had written them before but now it’s time to send another letter. He couldn’t turn a blind eye to the difficulties or soft-pedal the issues or treat lightly the work of false teachers. He tackled some huge, complex and very sensitive issues which could have torn the local church apart.

As the long letter was read to the believers – some would do some squirming over in that corner at certain verses; others at the front and some at the back would drop their head in shame at something else. Then, the subject changed and another group would slink and shrink in their seats, realizing their guilt. Many issues were addressed. Not an easy letter for sure!

Now it’s time to bring the letter to a close. Paul had stopped dictating the letter. He picks up his own pen and writes the concluding sentences of his difficult letter.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. 1Corinthians 16:23-24

Check the closing verses of Paul’s other letters and you will find that the most intimate and loving sign-off was 1Corinthians 16:24. “My love….”  The most common sign-off for Paul was: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

What a role model Paul is for us! What he taught in 1Corinthians 13 about love, he now practices. Given the magnitude of the problems and the degree of departure and the intensity of the division, he could have closed with a final warning and a harsh note of rebuke:  “In closing, I am ashamed of you my brethren. Yes, deep down I still love you, but I warn you once again to shape up or ship out!”  But that wasn’t his style and it wouldn’t have been Christ-like either.

It was the only time Paul used the phrase: “My love…”  The only other person to use that phrase in the New Testament was Christ Himself in John 15. Even if some of them no longer loved Paul, he was not afraid to say he still loved them in a very personal way:  “My love….”

Just because believers are off track or dead wrong in the direction they have chosen, does not mean we cannot confirm our love towards them. That is usually the time when we need to make a greater effort to assure them of our love. When have I last looked a struggling or wayward or an arrogant Christian (my assessment) in the eyes and said:  “I love you?”

Can you think of someone who is not doing well or who is off-track? Would it be inappropriate for you to contact them to confirm your love for them? We can never treat lightly our own sin or theirs – but we can still say: “I love you in Christ Jesus.”

“Lord, help me to contact someone today to tell them they are on my mind and in my heart and that I am praying for them and that I love them.”

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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