May 24 (Reading for May 23-29: Romans 16). I write this final devotional for Romans early this week since I will drive later today to Arlington for the Big 12 Baseball Tournament. After my return next week, I will make a trip to Guadeloupe June 23-July 30. This will be my last devotional, at least for the summer. We have not yet designated a biblical book for the ICF to study in June. It has been my joy to share with you in these devotionals. The following looks at one verse: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (v. 16), and is taken from chapter 14 of my book, “We Love Because God First Loved Us.”
A greeting acknowledges another person. A Christian greeting is unique in that it acknowledges who that person is in Christ and the potential of what Christ will accomplish in their life. How we greet is important because it is a visible expression of the fellowship we have in Christ. A greeting will communicate what is in the heart, whether it be indifference, anger, or joy, but a Christian greeting should convey our love for one another. Paul demonstrated this in his greetings to the Romans. He called them co-workers in Christ, dear friends, brothers and sisters, fellow prisoners, and those chosen in the Lord. He acknowledged their faithfulness to Christ, their hard work in the Lord, and greeted a woman who had been like a mother to him (Rom. 16:3-16). He concluded other letters with warm greetings: “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 16:24, NIV). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 6:23). It is obvious that greetings were significant in the early church.
I discovered this to be true in Guadeloupe, where I learned to take time to greet correctly, and not always be in a hurry. Not too long after our arrival, I entered a garage. There was a car with some legs sticking out from underneath it. I spoke to the legs in my limited French, asking for directions to another business. There was silence for a moment, and then the legs began to move. A man appeared, very slowly stood to his feet, looked me directly in the eyes, and said, “Bonjour.” He knew from my accent that I was not a local, so he said, “In Guadeloupe, we always greet people first!”
I was in Guadeloupe a few years before I adopted the local custom of greeting one another with a kiss. The time came when I became convicted of my oversight, and I made an announcement to the church that starting immediately, I would begin greeting them with a kiss. I thought that was the best way to commit myself! Their reaction was heartwarming. They were delighted and I realized that I had been missing out on something of great value to them, and of course, as I came to understand, to me. So, what would be the equivalent of greeting with a holy kiss? Any greeting that is genuine, warm, personal, accepting, friendly, or that puts someone at ease.
I once read about the experience a little boy had with an echo when his family went to the mountains. He thought another boy was mimicking him, and it made him mad. When he told the other boy to stop, he just heard back the same words. He went inside and told his mother that a boy was threatening to fight with him. His very wise mother told him, “Go back outside and shout, ‘I love you’ and see what he answers!” The good or bad echo coming back to us when we greet one another may well depend on the nature and sincerity of our greetings.
– Al Gary