May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. Galatians 1:3-5
Culturally speaking, Paul—and those of his day—knew how to greet one another well. These opening words of Paul’s letter (and all of his letters) are testimony to that. This is not how we communicate with one another today. We live in an age of email, texting and quick, easy communication. Consequently, we greet one another with a quick “hi” or “hey” and then jump right in. With those we know better we often don’t even bother with the formality of the “hey”; we just begin with the point we want to get to as if bringing them into the discussion mid-thought. I’m not criticizing—I love the convenience of communication in our time. I love the ease of connecting across miles and countries and even continents. I’m just thinking that the difficulty of it in Paul’s day perhaps made them all more intentional about giving—and receiving—a greeting.
And so Galatians begins with some deep and meaningful words about grace and peace. It is a blessing, and in truth a kind of prayer, for the people. May God give you grace and peace.
We don’t talk this way today. I don’t just mean that we don’t use these specific words. I mean that as fellow believers we don’t typically engage one another with this kind of depth, praying for and blessing one another. Typically we don’t get this deep with one another unless there is trouble; unless someone has a crisis and needs us to pray for them. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I know it can and is. I am experiencing deep relationships in the community I am a part of and am being greatly blessed and challenged by it. But what I am realizing is that engaging people on this kind of level—genuinely extending a prayerful blessing of grace and peace to another—requires a more intentional consideration for others.
Maybe the difficulty of communicating in Paul’s day created a greater sense of appreciation for the opportunity to simply speak to people. It’s almost as though engaging someone in conversation—especially about things of God—is recognized as a more sacred honor. And I think that translates into a greater appreciation for people in general. We could definitely use a dose of that in our day.
And then Paul moves right to the words at which we should all start every day:
Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.
Jesus gave his life. Just as the Father planned. To rescue us. What better place to start a letter than this? Paul, before going through his agenda items and topics that need clarification starts at the beginning. Jesus. He is setting the perspective and trajectory of the whole conversation by speaking of its ultimate goal. The glory and honor of Jesus.
This is a good greeting. That is really the only point I wanted to make. As we engage people in conversation today I hope that we could gain a sense of Paul’s interest and care for the people he is encountering, that our conversations could focus more on Jesus and his rescuing of us and that, as Paul says at the end of his greeting, all glory would go to God.