There is much we can learn in the introduction of the letters in Scripture. I notice that we have a tendency in this sinful condition to do two things. First, we are quick to skip most introductions. We skip the preludes in most books today. Second, we tend to forget that the Gospel is good news. Paul obviously addresses much sin throughout his letters, yet in his introduction declared grace and peace to those who would receive the letter. It wasn’t merely grace and peace from Paul but from Jesus Christ our Lord.
People often use the Bible as a tool for contention. We don’t like what someone is doing, so we find a verse in Scripture and use that single verse out of context so that we might feel justified in telling someone that he or she is wrong. While sin is very real and needs to be addressed and talked about honestly, just as Paul does in the first chapter of Romans and following, the example we receive is not contentious or malicious about doing so. After all, the apostle writes that those who take it up the responsibility of judging others (here to mean condemn) are just as guilty and will, therefore, be under God’s judgment, which is actually based on truth (2:1-2).
As we exist to honor God and to participate in God’s establishing of His creation and building of His kingdom, the example we receive is to do so without contention. We have a godly and honorable responsibility to represent God with grace and peace. Such is our example in the Scriptures. It is no wonder that Paul later wrote, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (12:18).
The Gospel is good news for everyone. That gives me the freedom not to nitpick every little thing. It gives me the freedom not to be overly critical of others. When I must address sin, it gives me the freedom to do so without contention, but with grace and peace. This is what I want to be in this community and in this world for God’s glory.