In many Biblical writings, especially those or Paul and Peter, we see these 2 words, “grace” and “peace” featured prominently. Paul uses them to open almost all of his letters (epistles) to churches as well as personal letters to people. “Grace & Peace” – followed by some sort of Divine greeting from God, and some definition of role that he finds himself in…”prisoner, slave, apostle.” Peter, likewise, uses them within his letter, these 2 little words that are overwhelmingly powerful and yet subtle and understated that the normal reader would miss their significance.
If we could all agree, the 2 things we need in our world at this time are grace and peace. Who couldn’t use a little more of each? I find people very rushed, rude and ridiculous these days and seeming to go 100 mph everywhere they go and with everything they do, but often is appears more like a revolving door…they never seem to be going fast enough and never seem to accomplish what they really want to. Thus enter…”grace & peace.” These words are by definition calming words. You can’t say them angrily or with vigor – they are soft words…they bring quiet to the soul.
Now we all know the genius behind the Biblical writers using them…the traditional greeting for Romans and Jews. Romans would say “grace” as we would say “Hi, how are you?” The Jews, “shalom” (or peace) as they greeted each other in the streets. The writers are wisely putting the traditional greeting for each group right next to the other – maybe as a passive way to showing that the church is for all (Jews & Gentiles), but maybe also so either party reading would simply see theirs and feel greeted. Genius!
But behind the misleading openings these writers may give, there is the sense of theme in these words. They want anyone who reads them to operate out of these, and allow these into their lives. We have to be the administers of grace and peace. When we understand all that God has done and all that he is able to do, we accept grace and exhale peace. Isn’t this what the Gospel is all about – we accept what we can never achieve and when we take it into our lives, we find peace, carry peace and share peace with the world around us.
In John 8, we have a text of Jesus confronted by religious leaders about a woman caught in the act of adultery. Not a prostitute, a set up. Jesus converses with the leaders and then they leave – but to the woman he says this…”Has no one condemned you? Go then, and leave your life of sin.” Grace and Peace. He begins with grace and she leaves with peace. We unfortunately get these mixed up… we would say “Go and leave your life of sin, and then we will not condemn you.” Jesus doesn’t do that – he begins with the grace and empowers her life to be lived in peace. Grace, then peace. What a lesson we can learn from this. Begin with grace, and then peace will emerge.
At our church right now we are doing a series on ‘Discipleship.’ This is one of the great underlying lessons we need to learn. Begin with grace. I begin easily with grace for myself…but not always with others. It is easy to underemphasize my struggles and overemphasize the rest, but that is not grace. Grace is to the undeserved, the one who is caught, the one who has no excuse or reason or defense…that’s why its grace.
When we start with the gift of God, called grace…peace comes. When we offer grace we too find peace. When we live into these 2 realities, we find God.