All I ever needed to know about the human condition I learned as a restaurant waiter. As a waiter, I saw a cross section of humanity move through my table, some tables that brought a smile to my face and others just hurt my heart. During my tenure as a waiter I was called stupid, laughed at, and degraded as a human, and the saddest part, most of the hurt happened on Sundays by religious people in church clothes. I wish I could say that my experience as a waiter was just my personal preparation for the pastorate, but sadly it is the experience of most every waiter in America. I remember talking with others who served along side of me as they griped week after week about the group of customers who expected the most and tipped the least. As the people of grace, we sure aren’t very gracious.
1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins the book of Philippians much like he begins almost every book, by greeting the church with grace and peace. At first it seems like a simple greeting, grace being the natural greeting to the Gentiles and peace to the Jews, but Paul repeats in every book what is central to our faith — that grace and peace are the perfect gifts given from a benevolent God.
As I think through the simple wording to this profound verse I see one clear thing — it is God who gives grace; no man who posses grace. Grace is unnatural to the human condition. We are all born selfish, self centered men and women who are worshipers of the reflection in mirror, not the God of creation. How many decisions a day do we make out of self preservation or out of self promotion? Going back to our opening story, the reason religious people are such bad customers is that they are often worshipers of self who see the person holding the tea pitcher as less than themselves.
Scripture teaches that while we were helpless, sinful, and self centered, Christ died for us. Grace is the redemption of God given to man, not according to his goodness or works but according to the benevolent heart of God. Grace is at the heart of God. God does not look down from heaven and pick the best players for his team as if he and satan are playing backyard football. God saves us not according to works but according to His grace. God saves us not according to value but according to His heart. When Paul says grace to you, you must see that grace is only from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.