Do you remember the day you met your spouse or best friend? Who spoke to whom first? What impression did that person make on you? You probably never expected that first encounter to develop into something lasting. A friendly greeting can be the start of an enduring relationship.
Things weren’t always so friendly in the early church. It was experiencing tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers. Today’s churches have similar conflicts based on political, social, and theological issues. Jesus and the New Testament writers emphasized the importance of loving one another and accepting one another, even those who come from different backgrounds.
At the close of New Testament letters to the early church, you’ll often see this reminder: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16). The instruction is repeated frequently (see 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14) and typically followed by a plea not to let divisions exist within God’s family. “Watch out for those who cause divisions” (v. 17). In that culture, greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek was a symbol of acceptance and friendship, reinforcing the idea that everyone was included and important. The greeting was not only a cultural norm but also a way of expressing genuine Christian love. Demonstrating love toward one another enables believers to live in peace for all who are in Christ.
While in today’s culture we might not greet one another with an actual kiss, we can show acceptance and love toward one another by being purposeful and loving in our greetings. With a friendly smile, direct eye contact, and kind words, we can make one another feel loved and welcomed, regardless of our differences.
>> We may not exchange a kiss as a greeting today, but we do have ways that make others feel welcomed. Consider the ways your church welcomes visitors. What can you, personally, do to extend the love of Christ to others?
It’s so tempting to stick to the people we know best, but every stranger is a person You love deeply. Fill us with Your love to welcome newcomers to our churches and to invite them into our homes.