Grace and Peace.
There is something about this pairing that shoots straight to my heart. It rings out HOPE to me!
Peace is a familiar concept to us, but grace—maybe not so much.
Ah, grace ~ how to define it, how to grasp its beauty and power, how to apprehend it for our lives. The drippings of grace… longing for a scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. — C. S. Lewis
Instead of ending with a few questions to ponder, I should like to start with them:
How would you define grace?
What’s your experience with grace?
Do you flow in grace – giving and receiving it freely?
Have you known and accepted God’s grace?
Has the infinite grace of God changed you?
Hmmm . . . can’t really know love without grace
For love ‘believes all things’, bears all things,
and gives the benefit of the doubt . . .1
Aye, that is grace.
In the next weeks, we will be meditating on takeaways from Paul's letters - as there are many! And then we will return to the book of John as Jesus makes his way to the Cross and then walks right out of the tomb!
My beloved apostle Paul knew grace. His entire life had been turned upside down by the grace of God—by the grace of God, I am what I am—he said of himself.2
What many don't realize is that this was a new phrase Paul coined—and it appears in the salutation of all thirteen of his letters.
"May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace~"3
"Grace" or "Grace to you" sounded like the standard Greek greeting, but was infused with theological meaning. On the other hand, "Peace" was a Jewish blessing that sounds weightier in Hebrew: "Shalom." Interesting.
Many of Paul’s congregations were torn by factional strife, but he didn't say, "Grace to you Gentiles, and shalom to you Jews." Grace is not just for Greeks, and peace is not just for Jews. God's desire was for the whole community to receive his grace and experience his shalom—not merely the absence of conflict, but the fullness of well being, harmony, wholeness, and life.
So Paul said, "Grace and peace to you." Paul addressed Gentile and Jewish believers together, as members of one body. He wrote in continuity with their cultural and ethnic backgrounds, yet pointed to a new, countercultural reality. He combined a Greek greeting and a Hebrew greeting to create a distinctively Christian greeting.4
It almost seems like all of the Beatitudes fits under the heading of Grace.
What is Grace? Paul succinctly stated: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”5
Aye, that is grace dancing. God reaching down for imperfect man, costly though it was to him. God’s very language is the language of grace, and he is in the business of extending to us his favor, even though we do not deserve it. God isn’t concerned with fairness in the way we are; actually, grace . is . strange . because . there’s . absolutely . nothing . fair . about . it.
God said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”6 God doesn’t wait for me to come to him . . . he runs to me, with arms outstretched. And in his arms, I remember how to dance again. Actually, some of us—we learn how to dance for the first time. Now that is amazing grace! I will ask you again: have you experienced that grace? And now, Friend, will you consider extending that grace to others—
in the forms of patience, listening, sensitivity – thinking of where the other person’s ‘at’ or coming from, offering forgiveness and extending yourself?
Well, how about it, Grace Giver?
Grace and Peace to you,
1) 1 Corinthians 13.4-7, The Living Bible
2) 1 Corinthians 15.10
3) Titus 1.4
5) Romans 5.6-8;
6) Isaiah 55.8,9