These Belong Together

2 John 1:3 “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”

If you know a little about the books we call “Epistles” in the New Testament, you know that the writer usually begins by wishing grace and peace to the people he is addressing. This is also why so many pastors begin their sermons with this greeting. Grace and peace are two of the most fundamental blessings God’s people can have in their lives. John adds mercy as a natural companion, one Paul also adds in his letters to Timothy, and Jude uses in the greeting to his short letter.

You can wake just about any lifelong Lutheran in the middle of the night and ask him to define what “grace” is, and he will tell you it is God’s “undeserved love.” It is the attitude God has when he looks at us in our rebellion and sin, and he chooses not to destroy us. Instead he saves us. He sends his Son. He dies in our place. He forgives all our sin. He sends someone with his word. He leads us to faith. He takes us to heaven. None of this is deserved. It is all a gift. If this is how God feels about you, if this is how he treats you, then there is nothing better you or I could have from now until eternity.

Mercy is similar, but it emphasizes that God’s love isn’t just a cold principle, an impersonal operating procedure. He feels for us. He genuinely cares. This care extends far beyond a solution for our failed behavior. He looks down on our lives, and when he sees us in any pain of any kind, it moves him. When our hearts break, his heart breaks. When sickness or injury give us pain, it troubles him. If he were a human father with a human body, he would get a lump in his throat to see us in our pain. At all times he is filled with a real concern for what is going on in our lives.

If this is how God treats us, if this is how God feels about us, then that naturally leads to peace. We live with the awareness, with the relief, that all is well between us and our Lord. My sin may be fresh; my pain may be immediate; but I live under my Lord’s grace and mercy, and that gives me peace.

I don’t think there is any trouble seeing the connection between this and love. As far as love goes, there could be no greater.

But why the emphasis on “truth?” If there were ever characteristics of our God his enemies hated, none have ever been hated and attacked more than these. This is what all the cults, all the sects, all the false teachers ultimately want to deny. “You want God to love you? You want him to accept you? You can’t make it so easy. You have to do something. You have to be better, different, than everybody else. You have to deserve it. You have to prove that you are sincere.”

Maybe they get there by watering down his commands so far that anyone could keep them. Maybe they get there by trying to motivate you to live like some super saint. But it’s all garbage. Grace, mercy, and peace are free. We need God’s truth, the promises of his word, to assure us again and again, because these blessings are contained in truth and love. They belong together.

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