1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. 2-3 God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. 4 He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. 6 You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.
7 To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a formula within many of Paul’s letters: “grace to you, and peace.” That’s always the pattern. Peace never comes first: grace does. But they always go together.
If you haven’t thought about the concept of grace for a bit, what it means is that God offers us love, forgiveness, and blessing without us having to do anything to deserve them. In fact, over and over again what’s stressed is that God offers us grace despite the fact that we are unworthy to receive these gifts.
One of the things I’ve noticed in my own relationships, especially when I’ve hurt someone, is that it’s hard to know peace until I know that the other person is ready to offer forgiveness. I can be contrite, I can be remorseful, I can be sad and maybe even a little bit ashamed of how I’ve acted. There have been times in my life when I’ve certainly felt unworthy of another’s forgiveness. When we approach the person we’ve hurt to try and reconcile the relationship, it’s not unusual to feel anxious until we hear the words: “It’s ok. I forgive you.”
Grace is the gift that we need in order for God’s peace to enter in. It’s the reassurance that we can still be accepted and loved, no matter what we’ve done. It’s the antidote to our anxiety about whether we can be accepted. And it’s through Jesus Christ that this amazing gift enters into the world – as Paul says: “through him we have received God’s grace.”
This is the good news of Christmas – that in Jesus, God has offered us the grace that leads to peace. But in that good news is also a challenge: Christ now calls us to extend that same grace to others.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there someone with whom your relationship has become strained? How might you offer that person the grace that leads to peace today?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have entered into our world with the offer of forgiveness, love, and grace. Help us to embrace these gifts so that we might know the peace of right relationship with you. Amen.