We finished up Titus at 9 am Sunday School this past week (Side Note: We start the Gospel of Mark next week, it is the perfect time to start coming to Sunday School!). We lingered on Titus 3:15, “All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.”
The Christian greeting. Mention of the Christian greeting is abundant in the New Testament and referenced over 80 times. But how often does it come to mind? Usually we skip over these first and last sentences in the New Testament letters.
Paul spends 16 verses in his letter to the Romans on Christian greeting (Romans 16:1-16), concluding this section with instructions for believers to greet each other with a “holy kiss” (Romans 16:6). Peter has similar instructions (1 Peter 5:14). John wants the recipient of his letter to greet all of the believers but more specifically, he wants them greeted by name (3 John 1:15). Paul wants to make sure every single believer in Philippi receives a greeting from him (Philippians 4:21).
What are we to make of this emphasis on the Christian greeting, and how can we apply it to our lives?
- It starts with simply making an effort to greet your brothers and sisters in Christ like a family member would be greeted. Enthusiastically, intentionally, sincerely, and with love (maybe not a “holy kiss” but with that measure of love).
- When you see a fellow believer out and about, is it evident by your greeting how much you love this person? Eye contact, body language, full attention, sincere words, making time to stop for a few minutes to talk.
- These things matter greatly because it is by our love for each other that others will come to know Christ (John 13:35). Let that sink in for a moment. What would others make of Christ by the way you interacted with a fellow believer at Walmart or during the church service?
There is another aspect to Christian greeting and its importance. In the New Testament, many believers lost their families when they became a Christian. The body of Christ was their family, support system, and the only community where they belonged. This still happens today in many countries. This may not happen as much in the Western world we live in, but it is still relevant.
- Kids may be the only believers at their school but they have a place to belong with their church family.
- An elderly widow may have no one left of her blood family, but her eternal family is here at church.
- That college student sitting in the back row feels out of place because they choose to not party on the weekends and they need to be welcomed and encouraged Sunday morning.
- What about the woman who comes to church without her husband every week and sits behind you? She needs support, love, tender care, and someone to notice her.
None of this happens without the Christian greeting.
Jesus took time to greet people; sinful, messed up people. He came down from heaven to pursue us! In the Gospels we see Jesus as someone who has his arms wide open. “Come to me”, he says. “Talk to me. I am a good shepherd, I’d love to care for you and listen to your troubles. You matter to me. Let me love you and pour out my grace on you.” People are so very important to Christ that he died for them.
When a believer greets you at church this Sunday or at the store this week, turn your body towards them, look them in the eye, listen to what they are saying, ask them how they are doing or about important things you know that are going on in their life. Put aside that worry we all struggle with about how we will be received. Follow the example of Christ and the disciples, and together let’s make an effort to greet our fellow brother and sisters with the love Christ has shown us all.