strive for full restoration

Read 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.

I enjoy seeing how English translators wrestle with rendering the opening phrase of the second sentence of vs.11. Here are several examples:

Be perfect. (KJV) Try to grow perfect. (NJB) Try to be perfect. (NIRV) Aim for perfection. (NIV) Become complete. (NKJV). Be made complete. (NASB) Try to be complete. (NCV) Do better. (CEV) Put things in order. (NRSV). Change your ways. (NLT) Mend your ways. (RSV, NAB, REB) Keep things in good repair. (The Message) Set your hearts on this maturity I have spoken of. (J.B. Phillips) Strive for full restoration. (TNIV)

Paul’s words here are a call for the Christians in Corinth to actually help bring an answer – that is, to become an answer – to what he has been praying for: “… our prayer is that you may be fully restored.” (vs.9) And as Philip Hughes has pointed out:

“… it implies not so much the need for individual sanctity (essential though that is), as for a united, properly articulated, and therefore harmoniously functioning together of the members of Christ’s body in Corinth.” (2 Corinthians, Philip Hughes, p.486)

Now if Churches of Christ are known for anything it is their plea to “restore” simple New Testament Christianity. However, the largest voice for the restoration of things in our heritage over the past century (and much longer) has been almost exclusively in regard to the organization of the church (church government, corporate worship, etc.). And as important as those things are, they are not the matters Paul concerned himself here with prayer (vs.9) and command (vs.11) over a period of time, through multiple letters to a congregation. Rather, what Paul stressed must be fully “restored” was not that church’s organization, but that church’s health, particularly in terms of the health of relationships of all the church’s members with each other.

All of which causes me to wonder – what exactly would Christ’s church look like today if the lion’s share of time, energy and resources expended through the ages to get church organization nailed down had been spent instead on the matters of even higher priority, matters such as true brotherly love, accountability for sin, enduring trust, sacrificial generosity and the myriad of related matters that occupied this apostle’s mind as he poured out his heart in the letters we know today as 1 & 2 Corinthians.

Oh, how I wonder!

Father God, I can’t change the world, but I can seek to restore in my life the things that truly must be there to please you and I can work with the strength you give me to make church a healthier experience for all. So give me holy eyes to see the greater priorities in life as well as my life in connection with all of your people. May I pour myself out into the most needful things. Keep me from majoring in lesser things; I do not want to squander your rich gifts on things of small importance and thereby neglect the matters that are most needful in life. Make this restoration in your church truly “full” and use me in this good work. Begin with me, I pray, in Jeuss’ name. Amen.

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