The first and the last word

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This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.
All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia.
May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. – Galatians 1:1-3 [NLT]

Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. – Galatians  6:18 [NLT]

Goldenrod | Bentonville, Arkansas | October 2021

“Leaders lead. Leaders frame the question. Leaders speak first.” Lyle Schaller was teaching a workshop on leadership for a group of pastors. It has proven to be one of the most memorable continuing education experiences I have attended. He spoke from his notes on 3X5 index cards, and gave us one pearl of wisdom after another. Since that time, I’ve strived to have the first word. But I will usually say, “I want the first word, but not the last word.” I want others to contribute to decisions we make; I don’t want to be a dictator. I want to be a leader.

Paul has the first and last word in this letter to the Galatian church. More important that who gets that first or last word is the first and last word itself. Grace is the fist wish and the last blessing of this letter. And grace is a powerful word. Grace touches hearts. Grace changes lives. Grace makes it possible for us to know and relate to God. 

You’ve been disrespected by a family member again and again. Yet you refuse to pay back their unkindness, but return kindness and gentleness. That’s grace. You have an opportunity to help someone who has gotten himself into trouble. It’s his fault. You choose to help. That’s grace. You catch someone in a lie. They are embarrassed. You choose to offer the truth quietly, not pointing out the lie. That’s grace. You’ve been offended, hurt, damaged, and sinned against. The relationship is broken. You choose to go to your sister and ask for a reset. That’s grace.

Grace looks for opportunities to do good for others. Grace offers kindness even to those who have offended you. Grace is generous. Grace makes us vulnerable. But grace also changes hearts. The person who has offended you purposefully may take advantage of your grace. But if you really want to have a better relationship you will take the risk. 

That’s exactly what God did for us. He became so vulnerable, taking on human flesh, that he was killed by the very people he was trying to save. But that grace has made it possible for us to live with God. We are saved by grace. We live in grace. Grace is God’s first word to us and his lasting wish for us. Paul reflects that in this letter as well as so many of his letters. That would be a good thing for us to imitate in our lives every day. 

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