The most important part of a letter

Talk to you later. Sincerely. Love. Have a great day! Thanks!

How do you end letters or emails? How do you decide what to leave people with at the end of a letter or a speech? I think it depends on how well you know them. If it’s a business letter, you’d want to be professional. If it’s a friendly letter, you’re free to do just about whatever you’d want — but if you’re writing a friendly letter for a purpose, you would need to keep the ending in mind.

Because it’s a truth universally acknowledged (at least in ADD circles) that people really only pay closest attention to the beginning of a document and the end. And they usually get lost somewhere in the middle.

It’s the same with a lot of readers. They’ll read the end of the book before they read the middle to find out if it’s going to work out all right. I used to do that because I wanted to know if the story was going to turn out all right in the end before I invested the emotion in caring about the characters. I’ve since stopped . . . but it’s still tempting sometimes.

And I think this concept is important concerning the last lines of Bible books too. But it’s interesting if you read the last lines and verses in Scripture because they aren’t always what you would expect. Some of them are joyful (Matthew). Some of them are horrifying (Judges). And some seem almost bland, like today’s verse in 2 Corinthians 13:14.

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

But in my opinion, it’s only bland until you understand who it was written to. The Church at Corinth was a mess. I won’t go into some of the crap they were involved in because it’s not appropriate for any sort of decent conversation. But they were a church, and they were doing terrible, immoral things.

(Yes, I know. Some things never change.)

But the situation with the Church at Corinth required that Paul send them two different letters, which is why we have 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. And if you read the two books, you’ll see that they have two completely different tones. 1 Corinthians was written when Paul was angry — he was pretty upset at the things he’d heard about going on in the Church at Corinth. 2 Corinthians is just as hard-hitting, but it’s like Paul had a chance to calm down before he wrote it and it doesn’t sound so frustrated.

So if you realize that the book of 2 Corinthians was written to a Church that was absolutely not in right standing at the moment, what does that tell us about the last few things that Paul (who wrote way more than half of the New Testament) chose to say?

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

First off, it tells me that Paul had a lot of compassion for the people he led to Christ. Because, honestly, many of the Church leaders at Corinth were probably people who Paul knew personally and may have even brought to Christ personally. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Secondly, it’s a meek rebuke. It’s a quiet reminder of where we’re supposed to find grace, where we’re supposed to seek love and where true fellowship comes from. People look for grace from other people, just like they want love from other people. And they think they can have fellowship with people who are just like them–who like to do the same things they like to do. But that can’t be farther from the truth. True Grace comes only through Christ. True Love comes only from God. True Fellowship is only possible between two people who have the Holy Spirit. And when you start looking for one of those from a different source, that’s the first mistake that will lead you down a path that will be hard to recover from.

Thirdly . . . it makes me think about all the silly ways I’ve ended letters to people I love. Especially in today’s text-lingo society. TTYL. LOL. BRB. What good, enriching truth do acronyms for useless expressions communicate? Nothing. Only that I don’t want to take the time to spell them out completely.

If the end of a book or a letter is truly the most important part, shouldn’t we focus as much energy and attention there as we do in the rest of the document?

Paul wanted to end this letter with a message that brought hope and encouragement to a Church that was struggling, and he wanted to remind them that they needed to look for that hope in a source outside themselves.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.