The apostle Paul usually closed his letters by saying “Grace be with you.” It’s interesting that Paul used that phrase because he had been a most unlikely candidate for accepting the grace God offered. Paul spent his “first” career terrorizing first century Christians. He literally persecuted the church and killed followers of Jesus. That was his mission. But then, Christ appeared to him, offered salvation, and forgave him. And Paul, perhaps more than anyone who has ever lived, was focused on the grace of God because he knew he didn’t deserve to be chosen to be a child of God. And you what? None of us do! None of us deserve to have the God of the universe go to a cross and pay that awful penalty for us, so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.
Paul’s words remind us that a thriving church will always focus on grace, not judgement. A strong church offers grace to all, without question; it does not jump to conclusions or make assumptions about others. A healthy church emphasizes and reflects God’s grace. A church that is truly the Church always offers grace because God was first gracious toward us.