The Building Test

11Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13All the saints greet you. — 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (WEB)

What questions should you ask when you’re deciding on a course of action? What is the most important thing?

I want to ask this primarily about our church-related activities, but that is too limiting. As Christians, we’re supposed to be followers of Jesus 24/7, not just while were in the church or engaging in church activities.

In our text, Paul is giving his final admonitions to the Corinthian church. What does he want them to do? Rejoice. Be “made right” or perfected, be comforted, be in unity, and have God living among them.

Let’s think for a minute about the term “be perfected.” We don’t really like the word “perfect” in the modern church. It’s a scary word, one that can turn people away. We have the bumper sticker, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” And there are many ways in which this is true. Perfectionism can be destructive, especially pursued out of balance, which it always is.

But there’s a danger on the other side as well, an acceptance of the ordinary, less than the best, mediocre kind of life. That happens when we decide that we can’t be perfect, so why should we bother trying to be good? “I’m not perfect” can then easily become an excuse for not accomplishing much of anything, and an excuse for grievous sins.

We gossip, and we say, “Well, I shouldn’t have done that, but nobody’s perfect.” We criticize, and we say, “The provocation was just too great.” We fail to be a good witness and we say, “People just have to realize that Christians aren’t perfect.”

There’s a continuing idea in the verb that Paul uses that is hard to translate into smooth English. If I didn’t care about how the language sounded, I might translate this as something like “continue in the process of becoming just right.” That is the way that we can avoid the two pitfalls. On the one hand we realize that we have not attained, but at the same time we also realize that it’s worthwhile to keep on trying to do better. God’s grace is there for the times we fail, and his grace gives us the courage to keep on looking at the distant goal and moving in that direction.

So what is the most important question to ask when deciding on a course of action? I would suggest it is simply this: Will this build God’s kingdom? If you can say that something is going to build, it’s good. If it tears down, reconsider.

Let me add one note. Often we don’t think of the many ways in which God’s kingdom is built. If it builds you up and makes you a better person and you are dedicated to the kingdom, then it’s a kingdom building action even if you can’t count the new church members.

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