No church is perfect. Kind of an understatement when talking about the church at Corinth. There was confusion, there was contention, and there was transgression. If there was ever a messed up body of believers it was the crazy saints at Corinth. If there was ever an assembly to wash one’s hands of, it was their assembly. But that’s not what the apostle Paul does. Instead, he contends for them. He lovingly teaches them, admonishes them, rebukes them, corrects them, and seeks to encourage them. And as I wrap up reading the second letter we have to them, what catches my eye–and my imagination–is his overarching desire for them. Aim for restoration.
Your restoration is what we pray for. . . Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration . . .
(2Corinthians 13:9b, 11a ESV)
Each of the major translations uses a different word to translate the Greek word katartizo. The NIV says “be perfect”, the NASB and NKJV render it “be complete”, and the ESV translates it “be restored.” And I’m liking the nuance of the ESV translation as I think it best captures what’s needed for this fractured fold. Restoration.
Aim for restoration. That’s the goal. That’s the aspiration. And, too a large extent, it’s what the gospel is all about. Things that are broken made whole. Direction that has been lost reestablished. Relationship that is on the rocks reconciled. There’s always a way back. Aim for restoration.
And the “bookends” of this finally section of 2Corinthians are, I think, particularly relevant when it comes to aiming for restoration.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
. . . The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2Corinthians 13:5, 14 ESV)
The way back starts with examination and ends with appropriation. It begins with testing ourselves and results in testing the truth of God’s revealed word.
There’s no incentive to fix something if there’s no recognition that it’s broken. No reason to turn back if we don’t recognize we’re heading down the wrong path. And so we need to take inventory. Are we walking in a manner worthy of our call in Christ? Are we walking in the light? Are we unequally yoked with this world? In the daily battle, is the flesh racking up more wins than losses against the Spirit?
And the purpose of such inventory taking isn’t despair, it’s a holy determination to return. It’s a recalibrating of direction, pounding the “home” button on our spiritual GPS. Aim for restoration.
And once we realize we’re eating hog slop instead of dining at the King’s table, when we decide to turn again our faces towards home, we need to remember that the journey back isn’t something we go alone. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse from all sin–the grace of Christ is abundant and sufficient whatever the way back. The love of God is so vast He awaits and watches for the return of the prodigal, ready to always receive those who come to Him. And the power of the Spirit so immense that nothing, no turn around, is impossible. He strengthens the inner man, He intercedes when we don’t know how or what to pray, and He is relentless in fulfilling His charge to be the guarantee who delivers us to the inheritance that awaits.
Ours is to aim for restoration.
Because of grace . . . for His glory.