“The peace of Christ be with you.” Is that familiar to anyone? Do we include that in our public worship? As 1 Corinthians is drawing to a close, Paul says, “All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss” (16:20). I’m not sure how many churches still literally practice the “kiss” of peace, but we still pass the peace of Christ.
Throughout this letter, the apostle has gotten on the Corinthians’ case about plenty of stuff. Something he has stressed over and over is the importance of love. It’s a message this contentious bunch needs to take to heart. Still, only two verses later, he comes out with this: “Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord.” Yikes! Now he’s breaking out the a-word, and I do mean the Greek one, anathema. Hasn’t he been trying to spread the love, not the hate?
We should notice that the word he uses for “love” in verse 22 is phileō. In all of his writings, he only uses that word one other time. It’s closely related to the word for “kiss” (philēma). It’s sometimes considered to be a love not quite as exalted as the one he usually refers to, agapē.
So maybe Paul is saying this. Those who don’t love the Lord, even at the level we might usually love each other (including our actions in worship), have somehow cursed themselves. Indeed, without the love of the Lord inside us, life itself can sometimes seem to be accursed.
That’s something to consider the next time we say, “The peace of Christ be with you”!