The news today is full of final, last-minute advice about preparing for Hurricane Irene. I have heard it so often I am starting to tune it out. They say you have to hear an advertising message at least three times before it prompts a decision. Will all of the warnings prove necessary? We will know by tomorrow afternoon.
The final chapter of II Corinthians is like those warnings. The Corinthians have heard it all by now, but they hear it again, one last time, from the earthly workman and overseer of their spiritual house. (I do not say “builder” – Paul is just one contractor of many for the Owner/General Contractor.) He wants them to be ready for the coming, howling storm of being Christians in first century Rome. To mix metaphors, any tradesman will tell you that there comes a time in any job when it seems to be done, and you cast your experienced eye over the whole thing, running a mental checklist. “Roofcap? Done. Nails and debris picked up from the ground? Done…..” Only then can you pronounce it ready for presentation and payment.
Either metaphor works; the final warning before the storm or final checklist of an approved, workmanlike job for the owner:
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.