How Should Christians Say Hello? (Part 2)

05 Feb

To read Part One of this series click here.

The Reason for This Regard


Jesus’ example of greeting includes an extreme moment when he even washed the disciples’ feet.

If Romans 12:16 affirms unity in Christ as the necessary means from which believers learn to regard others enough to greet them, Romans 15:7 speaks to the reason that one believer should welcome another believer. After pointing out in Chapter thirteen the way Christians submit to authorities and how they refrain from judging different brothers or causing weak brothers to stumble; Paul begins to close this section of his letter by reminding the believers that he asks them to live in this way due to the example of Christ.[1] The greater context of this verse mentions living in harmony in such a way that believers glorify God together, with one voice. Paul repeats the sentiment of Romans 12:16 in such a way that he makes this occasion sound like the believers have joined in worship singing his praise together. Then Paul draws this conclusion of welcoming one another in the form of command. The Greek words command believers to receive one another with kindness.[2] Since believers do this in order to follow the example of Christ, one must ask, “How did Christ “welcome” believers?” Christ welcomed believers in spite of their sin (Rom. 5:8) in order to lead people to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Thus as believers “welcome one another” they should do so in such a way that each one also receives encouragement to continue in a lifestyle of repentance and faith. Notice as well that the prepositional phrase “for God’s glory” aids and confirms the conclusions thus provided. Believers, like Christ should “welcome one another” so that God can be glorified through that greeting.

handshaking02While most certainly Paul has in mind that believers should do more than merely greet one another, he does not have less that this in mind. A believer who cannot even greet a brother or sister can hardly be expected to watch out carefully to keep that fellow believer from stumbling. More than likely such a believer who cannot say hello to a fellow believer in a welcoming way also has prejudged the condition, heart, or practice of the fellow believer. Further, such a believer will likely also have engaged in gossip or some sort of destructive behavior towards that fellow believer. This temptation may prove especially possible for a biblical counselor or pastor who has potentially verified all the rest of the congregation’s worst fears about the spiritual condition or sinful practice of a fellow believer. Even so, for the glory of God, at this very point one should welcome with the same kindness of Christ the struggling believer as often as possible. In fact, even if the fellow believer has come for his first appointment, it does not seem inappropriate to welcome him by saying something like the following: “I am so glad to see you today. Change begins when you begin to seek help as you struggle to please Christ.”

Give Him a Holy What?

churchgreeting03As this letter from Paul comes to an end, he turns one more time to a point at which he directly deals with the issue of greeting one another. Paul now speaks to what extent a believer should go in order to greet another brother in Christ. Remember that the churches would likely read these letters from the apostle in small groups or in the meeting of the whole church. The long list of greetings at the end of Romans serves to indicate the fact that

Paul was no impersonal practitioner. He worked everywhere with teams and used the services of fellow workers (or co-laborers, as he called them) to the full. In no way was he a lone ranger, a solitary figure romancing the Roman world. He enjoyed and in every way possible furthered the fellowship of the saints. Indeed, this chapter is an example of one way in which he did so. Many counselees fail in their Christian walk because they refuse to cultivate fellowship with fellow-believers.[3]

churchgreeting02It seems natural that Paul would greet those whom he knew and love, however Romans 16:16 as well as several other verses in the chapter testifies that Paul cared for the fellowship of local churches as much as he cared for those with whom he had a more personal relationship. This command in particular comes as one that required the participation of the whole congregation gathered to read this letter. The Greek word does not indicate that people should “greet one another” with mere words. It indicates greeting one another with the physical activity of a salute, a personal visit, bowing, or as in this case, a kiss.[4] Most Americans who read this passage find the idea of someone giving another church member a kiss at the least strange. Even so, Greek has at least two words for kiss. This one refers to a physical expression of love and friendship.[5] The other Greek word for kiss has more of the meaning Americans think of pertaining to a passionate kiss.[6] Even more so Paul modifies this word for kiss with the word holy. Though the Bible does not have any illustrations which display the fashion of the kiss, one can with certainty trust that this kiss in the public congregational meeting would have raised no suspicions, but rather communicated the genuine Christian affection one believer should have for another.

churchgreetingThus at any church, a time to greet one another with  a physical handshake or hug in addition to a verbal greeting that communicates the unity one believer feels for another in Christ should not only occur, but exist as the norm. A biblical counselor communicates his involvement personally with his counselee as he stands from his desk, makes his way to the door in order to greet the counselee entering his office. Further as they meet one another in the normal life of the church, the counselor expresses his personal involvement by not using the greeting as an impromptu checkup. Rather by keeping the sessions private; expressing interest in the counselee in an ordinary fashion helps to emphasize the fact that the counselee’s situation does not define the whole of his life. Such a greeting can serve to further remind the counselee that the tie that binds counselor and counselee does not occur in a session, but comes from their relationship together in Christ.

handwrittennoteSome may object to this explanation by asking how the reader should understand next phrase in the chapter which states that the “churches of Christ greet this fellow church”. How can Paul use the same word for both the tangible personal greetings of the Roman church one to another and the intangible greetings of these churches in word only? Such a question forgets that in the days of the Roman Empire a letter represented the most expensive sort of tangible gift anyone could receive. Even today, the hand written personal greeting comes so rarely to most people it represents a similar sort of tangible personal warmth. Believers should not stop with thinking about greeting one another or even associating with one another. No, believers should continue until they tangibly and personally express their greetings to the glory of God. Greeting one another should provoke believers to further acts which show their regard for one another.

Greeting Time Is Worship Time

From Paul’s exposition in Romans, one can conclude that for a believer, all of life and every relationship worship the Christ who has joined believers unto himself. Thus a worship service that has a specific greeting time has not abandoned the worship of Christ in favor of a social club mentality. The problem occurs when a believer refuses to greet another believer either in public or in the church. Such refusal demonstrates some break in fellowship and unity in Christ or at the very least an oversight in the person’s worship of Christ as he forgets the vital importance any person united to Christ should possess.

[1] Adams, 124.

[2] Zodhiates, 1235.

[3] Adams, 131.

[4] Zodhiates, 276.

[5] Ibid, 1445.

[6] Ibid, 847.

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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Shepherding


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