I have heard Paul’s Letter to the Philippians described as a love letter. And when you read the first few verses, it is easy to see why.
“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus the Anointed One, greet you, our friends in Philippi—those set apart by Jesus the Anointed—and we greet the elders and deacons who serve with you. Grace and peace be with you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Anointed. Whenever you cross my mind, I thank my God for you and for the gift of knowing you.” (Philippians 1:1-3, The Voice).
Paul and the Philippians enjoy a tremendous bond of Christian friendship, where each party holds the other in affection, love, and support. For while it was traditional in the ancient world to begin a letter with a section of “thanksgiving,” this one overflows with Paul’s gratitude for their support, both when he was among them and now that he is apart and suffering in prison.
This past Sunday, we learned that Paul began everything, every letter, every conversation, every action with the words or spirit of “grace and peace.” And, we were challenged to imagine what would happen if we began everything we did with, “Grace and Peace to you.”
I want to challenge us to go even a step farther. Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to start our letters or to start our conversations, not only with grace and peace, but also with a sincere thanksgiving for one another. What would happen if everything we did or said began not only with “grace and peace” but also telling the other person that every time you think of her or him, you give God thanks for their friendship and support? Or, the next time you have a significant meeting at work, start by telling the whole group why you are grateful to work with them? Or the next time you sit down with your family, turn to each one and say what you are grateful for about each one?
Thanksgiving is powerful because it builds up the other person, names what is beautiful and wonderful, and links it to the goodness of God, the giver of all gifts. Each of us could do with a little more thanksgiving in our life. It is what flows from a life of Grace & Peace.