“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 16:23-24
I’ve been sending a lot of letters out lately. Well, emails, mostly, but a couple of cards, too.
Partly this is because it’s summer, and I’m checking in with friends I haven’t talked to in awhile. How’s life, how’s the family, etc. If you can manage it between your vacation and theirs, summer is a good time for a bagel with a friend. Some sharing, some praying, some edifying… all good stuff.
I’ve also been sending out emails, including several to people I don’t know very well. We are all going to be working on a project together in the coming months, and I’ll get to know them better as that happens, but for right now we don’t know much more than each other’s names, and that we all love studying the Bible. So as I’m signing off on these emails, there’s always a bit of puzzlement as I choose my closing. “Love” ? Probably at some point, but it seems a little soon for that. “In His Love” ? Always safe with fellow Christians, but a little heavy-handed for a breezy note. Plus it might sound pretentious. “Yours” ? Not bad. I also like “Blessings”. It basically says that I hope they are being blessed, and that’s certainly true. I also use “Hugs” a lot, but only once I’m a little more familiar with someone.
But look at the closing verse of Paul’s, here at the end of 1 Corinthians. Beautiful and poetic, isn’t it?
I love the dichotomy of these two lines. Think about “grace” and “love” and the origins of those two gifts. “Grace” means “help given to man by God; a freedom from sin through divine grace; a virtue coming from God”. And “Love” means “a strong affection, a warm attachment”.
First, Paul is telling the Corinthians that he loves them. This is an emotion of which we are all capable, but then he distinguishes further by telling them it is not just any love he has for them, but agape love – the love that is in Jesus Christ.
But the virtue of grace – this comes not from Paul, but from God alone. Paul acknowledges that, takes no credit, and makes no pretense that grace can come from him.
I thank the Father for the special love in us, which comes from Him, that we can share with others. And I thank Him for the gift of grace, which comes only from Him, and through which we are saved.