Other Side of the Fence

Paul’s letters always start with the same greetings: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3).”

To our modern ears, that sounds like nothing but mandatory politeness. In Paul’s day, however, those few words carried so much theological and cultural weight. “Grace to you” was a standard Greek greeting; “peace to you” was its Jewish equivalent.

In the first century world, there were three relational hostilities: the Jews looked down on the Greeks, and the Greeks despised the Jews; men were dismissive of the women, and women were embittered toward men; free people saw slaves as sub-humans, and slaves resented the free people in return (Scott Sauls, 2015; Galatians 3:28).

By putting together two culturally distinct salutations in every letter he wrote, Paul was telling his readers that the unity of the Father and the Son heals the hostile relationship between the Jews and the Greeks. This holds true for the animosity between slaves and free people and the age old battle of the sexes too. The theology is subtly stated: Christ brings about a centering and unifying power to our fragmented relationships. He dissolves the dividing line between US and THEM.

This poses a curious question for us today. Who are the people you naturally dislike just because they are on the other side of the fence?