“May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.”
Today, we don’t often start our letters like this. Frankly, we don’t often write letters. However, this is a common greeting in the New Testament letters. The Apostle Paul started all of his letters like this, regardless of the content of the letter – encouragement, instruction, or rebuke. His prayer was always for God’s grace and peace first, above all else. Peter used variations of this greeting in each of his letters. “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” Today, many Christian traditions continue to use this greeting. “Grace and peace.” And this is followed by, “And also with you.”
I grew up in a tradition where this phrase was rarely used. This seemed like simply a religious expression that did not have real world implications. Only in recent years I considered what this phrase means and I am learning how impactful this phrase could be.
In short, I have learned that grace connects us to God, or rather connects God to us. Grace is most simply defined as receiving something undeserved. Some say it is like receiving a gift, but this would be a gift that you really don’t deserve. Christ beautifully and perfectly demonstrated this when he gave his own life in place of ours. I need the grace of Christ everyday – grace to love, grace to forgive, grace to pray, and grace to serve.
I have also learned that peace connects us with others. There is no shortage of chaos in this world. A quick glance at the headlines in our local paper is evidence enough. While I likely won’t influence conflicts around the world, I can influence my relationships with others. Instead of perpetuating strife I can follow the model of Christ which extends peace in every interaction and in every relationship. I need the peace of Christ as I navigate each and every day.
I see “grace and peace” as pictures of Christ’s work on earth. This simple, prayerful greeting points in two directions. First, it directs us vertically, pointing us to the love of God. Second, it directs us horizontally, a call to extend the peace of Christ to the world.
I can’t help but to pause and reflect on how deeply profound this expression really is. While the phrase “grace and peace” is only three short words, the impact can be far-reaching. What would happen if we deliberately prayed this simple prayer throughout the day? What would we say or do differently if we extend grace and peace before we post on social media? Before the tense business deal? Before we vote in November?
What would happen if we made a habit of praying “grace and peace”? What would be different if we prayed this prayer for our families? Our friends? Our neighbors? For those we don’t like? For those we don’t get along with?
There is a better way, and I’m convinced that “grace and peace” are significant parts of this. As I close this letter, my prayer for you is the same as Peter’s timeless benediction. “May God give you more and more grace and peace.”