Try a little kindness.
So I entered "warm greetings" in the search engine of the organization from which I purchase the images for these posts. Instantly there were 400+ pictures that matched my request. They depicted extremely friendly people in various stages of greeting one another. Every one of them were wearing heavy overcoats, gloves, scarves, and fur hats. They were warm indeed. After a little maneuvering the one pictured above was selected. It portrays the kind of warmth I had in mind. And, it's a kind of warmth that is a little rare these days.
Most observers agree that our prevailing culture is basically distant and disconnected. There's a new anonymity in the artificial relationships often created by social media, the information superhighway, and the complexities of exponential living. Personal identity and relational joys are secondary to user names, aliases, and contact buttons. When I Googled "warm greetings" many sites were referenced with the intent of warming up email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts. They promised friendlier connections in the new world of automated but distant contact. Our relational dynamics today are more about click, delete, archive, or trash buttons. Sad!
This past May our family had a week on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. It was the last week of summer vacations, the week before most school systems resumed. Every morning I did a Garden City pier to Surfside pier slog to get my 10,000 daily steps. One day I did a a project while I slogged. Many people walked and jogged that beautiful beach. In the first leg I kept my eyes forward and didn't speak to a soul, and no one acknowledged me in any way. On the return segment I decided to greet every person I encountered with "Good morning, have a blessed day". Amazingly, almost every individual smiled, nodded, and returned my greeting. It reminded me that many people are hungry for a little kindness. One small older man, stooped and slow, wearing a Korean War Veteran hat, stopped to talk and thank me when I said "Thank you for your service". We met every morning after that. He sought me out and we exchanged pleasantries. What a blessing!
Greeting is an important concept in the New Testament. The word translators typically render as "greet" or it's derivatives, is transliterated aspazomai (Strongs #782) and pronounced as-pats-zomahee, meaning to welcome, greet, express good wishes, or salute another person. It is used sixty times in the New Testament. The idea of greeting is among the fifty-nine one another passages used to describe our behavioral responsibilities within the community of faith, Christ's church. In a larger context greeting is a subtext of expressions of kindness to other Christians, along with hospitality, encouragement, unity, being of one mind, and other relational dynamics. In my mind a simple greeting helped define the early church and identify those called to share spiritual favor in such complicated and often oppressive times. Jesus had announced that "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 35, ESV). The greeting was clearly one of those visible interactions that would indicate the relational truth of Jesus' words.
On five occasions in the New Testament Epistles this greeting was to be accompanied by a holy kiss (see Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16: 20; 2 Corinthians 13:12;
1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5: 14). Of course, this holy kiss was physically pure and morally blameless. It was a display of brotherly affection and friendship in the Gospel. It was especially meaningful in the New Testament period because many believers were ostracized and expelled from their families as a result of newfound faith. The use of a holy kiss is debated by the Christian community today as sexual performance and harassment are questionable in church life. In any event, the greeting is an application of New Testament truth that should characterize relationships in the Body of Christ. That greetings communicate sincerity and genuine spiritual affection is rarely argued. True Christian fellowship should always mark the relational dynamics within Christ's church. A heartfelt greeting is a step in that direction.
One of my great blessings in forty years as a pastor, and now in the next chapter of ministry, is to go to the worship center early to greet people gathering for worship each week. Yes, I practice early morning prayer on the Lord's Day, specifically seeking God's favor as I minister and preach every week. That greeting time, always twenty or thirty minutes before worship is the finishing touch of preparation to lead God's people. This old high relater and extrovert genuinely needs the blessing that others bring during our before service greeting time. The warmth and affection transmitted as we greet one another provides a sense of unity and fellowship that is so necessary in these exponential times. They prepare us to be of one spirit as we honor our God.
In his third Epistle Beloved John wrote, "Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends each by name" (3 john 1:15, ESV). This kind of interchange amplifies the beloved bond of our relationships in faith. It is the blessing of a warm greeting, and it is life-changing, I pray for them and, and I know for me.