By Joe Chesser
It’s that time of year again when holiday greetings arrive in the mail and are shared just about everywhere we go. We see greetings extended on marquees and billboards, in front yards, and in all kinds of businesses. From just before Thanksgiving through Christmas to just after the new year, these six weeks or so are the “greetingest” time of the year. Unless you are a true grinch or a scrooge (a grumpy person who is mean-spirited and unfriendly), you just have to love this time of the year.
Christians should never be like a grinch or a scrooge ... no matter what time of year it may be. In fact, Christians should be the “greetingest” people on earth all year long.
Just glance at Romans 16. The word “greet” is used 17 times in this chapter alone. If I counted correctly, 35 specific people either received or sent greetings, and several others are mentioned as associated with these people. In addition, in his letters Paul sent his greetings to people in the churches at Corinth, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonica, plus in writing to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The Hebrew writer sent greetings to all of God’s people, as did James; Peter said to greet one another, and John sent greetings from himself and others (Hebrews 13.24; James 1.1; 1 Peter 5.14; 2 John 13; 3 John 14).
All of these greetings indicated a loving and personal connection with fellow believers in other places. The greetings were genuinely given simply because they shared a common connection in Christ. They were brothers and sisters, and that alone made it personal. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know each other’s names. It didn’t matter that they had never met, nor probably ever would. As John wrote, “The friends here send their greetings” (3 John 14), or as the Hebrews writer said, “Those from Italy send you their greetings” (Hebrews 13.24). To Titus Paul wrote, “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith” (Titus 3.15). Generic? Yes. But even so we clearly sense the love they all shared with Christ ... and with each other because they “love us in the faith.” “All the saints send you greetings” (Philippians 4.22). I wonder if we feel that same camaraderie with Christians in other congregations ... nearby or far away? But, when possible, the Bible also encourages us to greet each other by name (3 John 14). As noted above, it is impressive how many people in Rome alone Paul greeted by name.
These greetings indicate more than shaking hands when we see each other, more than a mere courtesy. They indicate a sharing of hearts, a friendship, a brotherhood. Perhaps that’s why the New Testament letters repeatedly encourage the church to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16.16; 1 Corinthians 16.20; 2 Corinthians 13.12; 1 Thessalonians 5.26; 1 Peter 5.14). Cultural expression or not, a holy kiss represents the importance of greeting each other with hearts that are united in Christ.
How we greet each other says a lot about how we feel toward each other. Once again, our hearts are involved in our actions. Greet one another with the love of Christ.