The efficiency of email and blogs and social media posts have obviously expedited the speed with which we can communicate with multiple people at once. At the same time, the brevity of our comments to one another often lacks the thoughtful expressions that once characterized our communication.
In years gone by, people would communicate with letters, carefully inscribed by hand on chosen stationary, and often sealed by special mark. Words were chosen carefully. Often the letters began with greetings like “Dear Mary,” or “Dearest Tom.” And they were signed with similar affection often with a summary of closing thoughts. Communications and greetings were marked with a concern for the protection of our relationships, especially the other person. Maybe you remember.
Such was the custom of Paul when he wrote to the churches under his care. He would often begin with a sincere and endearing greeting: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ..” And following his purposed writing he would conclude with a closing summary as he does at the end of 1 Corinthians 16. And though the letter was written nearly 2000 years ago, he closes with an encouragement to each of us today. It seems appropriate to whatever task awaits you this day.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (V 13-14, 23)
We are well advised to be on our guard, to stand firm, to be courageous and strong because our lives are lived in a spiritual battlefield that threatens to claim our mind and hearts. It’s played out in what we pay attention to, our ambitions and desires, our activities, and our relationships with others. We’re tempted to think our arguments are with people who disagree with us, with political persuasions, and physical ailments. And while true that is, our most serious battle is won or lost in the spiritual realm. And so we are well cautioned to put on our daily spiritual armor to protect our thoughts and emotions from falling captive in battle.
Our lives are lived relationally. It’s how we were created. As poet John Donne penned, “No man is an island unto himself.” Our lives are inextricably connected. When you impact just one life you change the world. This is played out in so very intentional many ways: by teaching, helping, encouraging, giving, by opening doors of opportunity, and by praying. But it is also played out quietly in greeting and concluding our communications with others.
It’s not only for letters, emails, blogs, and posts. It’s a good reminder for how we engage with those around us this very day:
Standing firm in faith
Courageous in reaching out to others
Strong in our persistence to do everything in love
Filled and exuding with the grace of the Lord.
However imperfectly we carry it out, it’s how we change our lives and others, and in the process, change the world.