January 19, 2021
Who Could You Include Today?
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I stroll out to our mailbox each afternoon. Normally, it's stuffed with junk mail. However, every so often, I retrieve an envelope that delights my heart and puts a spring in my step. What is this joy-inducing item? A handwritten note.
Today, we tend to communicate by email, texts or direct messages on social media, usually diving right into the subject at hand. But an old-fashioned letter begins first with a heartfelt greeting. (I still remember writing out possible "salutations" to a friendly letter in my seventh-grade writing class!)
The author of Philippians, the Apostle Paul, used two welcoming words in his greeting in today's key verse: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:2).
It might seem as though he was merely choosing two friendly salutations from a list he'd learned in his seventh-grade writing class. However, if we dig a little deeper, we discover his greeting was actually rather strategic. He was seeking to be inclusive in a society that was often divided.
In that ancient culture, the term grace was customarily used when greeting a gentile - anyone who was not of Jewish heritage. The Greek word for grace is charis and means joy, pleasure, beauty and brightness. It is even connected to our English word "charm."
Peace, on the other hand, was typically used when addressing a Jewish audience. The original word is eirene. This type of peace isn't just one that is void of troubling circumstances; it means complete and total well-being. The Philippian church body was going to be made up of Jews and non-Jews, and right off the bat, Paul included them both.
The city of Philippi was inhabited largely by non-Jews - both Greeks and Romans - and although Latin was the official language, most people spoke Greek. By using both the words grace and peace in his opening greeting, Paul is subtly saying what is overtly said elsewhere in Scripture: "There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus"(Galatians 3:28, CSB).
The Philippian church was diverse in other ways too. It contained people of different socioeconomic statuses. Additionally, Paul's acknowledgement of - and friendship with - a woman named Lydia was a bold statement of the gender inclusiveness of the gospel in a culture where women were often overlooked and marginalized. (Read more about Lydia in Acts 16.)
Unearthing Paul's desire to be inclusive just as Jesus was causes us to ponder if we too are pursuing diverse relationships. Would a quick scroll through the contact lists on our phones show that we are friends with only those who look and live much like we do? Or would we spy people of various colors or ethnicities and from various walks of life?
I love how Paul addressed everyone in his greeting - even those he might not have known as well or have as much in common with. Bold as it may be, perhaps the Lord is calling you to scroll through your friends on Facebook, your phone's contact list or your Instagram connections and reach out to those you've lost communication with, haven't formally introduced yourself to or find intimidating to speak to. Challenge yourself to choose those you might not normally befriend in real life - those who don't look or live like you do. You may just make someone's day the way I'm sure both Jew and gentile, male and female felt about Paul's kind opening words.
How might the Lord be prompting you to become more inclusive today? May we take a cue from Paul and reach out in love to pursue diverse relationships, displaying the gospel as we do.
Father, help me discover ways to reach out to others who do not look and live like I do. I want to display Your unconditional love to others, no matter their ethnicity, income level, race or gender. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 2:11, "For God does not show favoritism." (NIV)
Karen's upcoming book, Make Their Day: 101 Simple, Powerful Ways to Love Others Well, is packed with creative ideas for scattering kindness to people from all walks of life. If you preorder by February 2, you'll receive a PDF of Valentine’s Day gift recipes, including homemade peanut butter cups, cinnamon-spiced nuts and dark chocolate-cherry fudge, along with ready-made scripture tags for photocopying to include with your gift.
For a chance to win one of three copies of Make Their Day: 101 Simple, Powerful Ways to Love Others Well, comment on Karen’s Instagram, where she's hosting a discussion on simple yet creative ways to reach out to others
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is there someone you can think of who is of a different race, nationality or economic level than you that God may be prompting you to reach out to? What is one action you can take to show them love and care?
We᾿d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.