A Sacred Greeting

I received a call from one of my sons today and he was laughing so hard he could hardly talk.    He had recalled one of my funny sayings from years earlier and the sole purpose of his call was just to reminisce and to laugh together.    We only talked for ten minutes, but I was energized by it.   

One of the ways we develop closeness in relationships is by the way we talk to each other, especially in our greetings.   The Bible says our greetings are sacred.    Go back and read that last sentence; don’t miss the weight of it.    From God’s perspective even the simple way we open conversations and interact with people are sacred.

The Bible teaches us to , “Salute one another with an holy kiss”.   (Romans 16:16)    The word “holy” means “that which is sacred, pure, blameless”.   The same instruction is given to us in two more places.

“Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.”    (I Corinthians 16:20)

“Greet one another with an holy kiss.”   (II Corinthians 13:12)

God is not talking about the moral implications of a kiss.   This was the common mid-eastern greeting in that day and still is in many parts of the world.     It was an appropriate, affectionate and sincere greeting.    The best example in our culture would be a warm, hearty handshake or hug between two old friends.

Don’t miss the main point just because of a cultural difference.    There is a transferable principle here for us in these Scriptures.   Here it is: the way we greet one another is to be consecrated and dedicated to God as much as our dedication to be morally pure.    Now I realize it is hard to comprehend that even the way you greet people is sacred.   But that is exactly what the Bible is teaching here.

Let me illustrate by making a comparison.   The Bible teaches that God’s name is holy (Matthew 6:9) and is not to be taken in vain (Exodus 20:7).   Believers understand the seriousness of that truth.   God has set apart His name and consecrated it; we should not use God’s name in a common, frivolous, empty way.    It is sacred and special.

The Bible states that our greetings are holy, too.   They should not be given “in vain”, in a common, frivolous, careless way.    There is something sacred not only about the way we treat God’s name, but the way we greet people.   (For you theologians, I’m not equating the two in how God views them, but there is a similarity and an application).

We think of the things we do at church as being consecrated to God.   You know, the “big things” like teaching and preaching, praying, singing, being involved in ministry.    But the way you greet people is to be recognized in the same way.   This is what God means by “greeting one another with a holy kiss”.     If it is important to God, then it ought to be important to us.

God greets us and relates to us.    When He placed Adam and Eve in the beautiful and perfect Garden of Eden it was a place of fellowship and frequent personal greetings.    The Bible records that the couple “heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day”.    (Genesis 3:8)    This was a sacred time for the couple until sin broke their fellowship with God and each other.

Another example of God greeting us individually – “And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.   And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.”   (Genesis 16:7-8)     Notice, He knew Hagar’s name and used it when greeting her!    That is one of the sweetest truths in the Bible to me.    God is personal and knows me personally.

Our greetings with people are likewise sanctified in God’s eyes.  To us they are common and mundane, but to Him they are holy.   The root word of “holy” is “sanctified, set apart”.    This means when I greet people there is a sacredness about it.   If we believed this it would drastically change the way we greet people.

Whatever is holy to God is important to His children and ought to be valued and practiced by us.    It could be a significant day in your life when you begin to view your greeting as more than a common courtesy, but something that is holy and sacred.

That means that the way you greeted people in your office today was important to God.  The way you spoke to your friends when you walked into your church or had lunch with them is seen by God as being holy and sacred.

In the same way, the way you greet your wife, husband, children, parents, brother or sister is important to God.   Yet, it is in our closest relationships where we let this slide the most.   We are often kinder in greeting strangers than our own family.

I think one reason this “one another” command is so important is that God can use even the way you address someone in a very powerful way.    Don’t underestimate the power of a genuine, kind, heartfelt greeting to someone.

One of my dearest friends tells the story of the night he came to church and accepted Christ as his Savior.   An hour before he was impacted by the sermon that night, he was impacted by a kind greeting.    A gracious, loving man we all called “Bro. Mac” was greeting people as they entered the building.    He had a tender heart and you discerned it the first time you met him.

As my friend walked into the back door of the church there was Bro. Mac, welcoming people.   He said, “Son, I’m so glad you’re here tonight; you’re going to get a blessing”.   My friend told me that one of the reasons he was saved that night was because of that simple, sincere greeting.  

I believe the Heavenly Father was watching that moment and felt, “Mac, you’re doing this for Me.   You are representing Me to that teenage boy that needs My Son”.   Greetings are indeed holy and sacred.

Many years ago one Sunday I was walking to our auditorium and noticed the car of a guest that had just pulled into the parking lot.   Unless you’re a pastor you cannot comprehend how full your mind is with the myriad details of the day.  The temptation is to let other people take care of greeting people.    But we cannot do that as these can be sacred, memorable times. 

I went over to the car as the family was piling out, parents with two young children.  It was their first time they had ever attended our church.   They had no clue where to go.   After some introductions I helped to get their children to their classes and then took Mom and Dad to their place.

At that moment I didn’t know the father would one day be a teacher, deacon, staff member and that both he and his wife would become dear friends to Paula and myself.   Greetings are important.   I think as I was helping them that morning my Heavenly Father looked on and said, “Rick, you are doing this for Me; this is how I would treat this family”.

If this is important in church, it is even more important at home.   The way a wife greets her husband makes a difference.     When he comes home from work do you smile at him and ask about his day?   Is there a positive greeting or do you immediately begin to plunge into your problems and how things have gone wrong during the day?

I shared with Paula once that the first few minutes we connected after having been apart for a while were crucial to setting the environment for the rest of the evening.   I requested that before she gave me any negative news that the topic would be something positive.   Sure, I have a responsibility as the leader of the family to deal with tough issues, but the initial greetings make a difference in my looking forward to coming home.  

The way a husband greets his wife makes a difference.   There ought to be kind words offered, asking about her day.   We aren’t to just walk by her with a cursory grunt of acknowledgment.   The Bible doesn’t talk about a “holy grunt” as you pass by each other, but a “holy greeting”.

We had been married for just over a month and I came home from work really tired.   I needed some quiet to just rest.    Paula had cooked a meal and greeted me at the door with a hug and a sweet word.   Though I wasn’t rude to her, I failed to communicate that I was excited to see her and that I valued her.

I wounded her spirit and I could tell it immediately.    It was not a sacred moment because I didn’t value it to be.   She went back and finished preparing supper and I quickly made things right with her.   I never forgot that day because of how much I hurt my wife, even though I never intended to do so.

It was a painful lesson.   I had no right to come home and be passive in the way I greeted Paula.   The sad thing is that I have done the same thing to her after that incident.   More than once.   It is something that I am aware of, and to which I give attention.    The most precious person in the world to me deserves a kind, attentive greeting.

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It’s important how parents greet their children when they awake or arrive home from school.     We create an environment in the home where it is easy to be close when we value each other, express our joy at seeing them, speak their names and pause to look at their face and give some unhurried time to talk and listen.

Sometimes I will walk through the room and see one of the children sitting at the table or on the couch and realize we hadn’t had a quality conversation in a while.  The Spirit of God will prompt me to stop and talk to them.   Most of the time it is inconsequential on the surface, but I want them to know their Dad loves them.    And that is one reason why our greetings are sacred.

One of the warning signs that something is not sacred to us is when it becomes mundane and ordinary.    And therein is the challenge.    Greetings are so frequent that they become meaningless to us, they aren’t special and degenerate into minimal dialogue.

When some speak to us it’s a formal transaction, void of any emotion or heart, and without any impact.   Yet, others greet us and it has a transformative effect in that moment.    We look forward to interacting with them.  

A man in our church has this impact on all that know him.   His name is Calvin.   From  the moment you meet him you are given a warm smile, eye contact, and an affectionate hand on your shoulder.   Calvin literally transforms any environment he is in and it starts with his greeting.   I always look forward to seeing him.   He blesses my life – simply by the power of his greeting.

On my cellphone I have saved some messages from years ago that are very special to me.   They are from my family.   Some are fun, some are tender, some are gracious, some are just common words.   But these greetings are memorable and special to me.   The reason I have kept them is because I am reminded that my family loves me….because of the way they greeted me.

William Osler, a physician from Canada gave the following wise words to other doctors about caring for their patients.   Part of it involves a proper greeting.   He wrote, “Care more for the individual patient than for the special features of the disease.   Put yourself in his place.   The kindly word, the cheerful greeting, the sympathetic look – these the patient understands”. 

May today those you love the most know it through your first interactions with them.   They are sacred moments.    Let’s treat them as such.    They have far more influence than we can ever recognize.

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About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 39 years with seven children and eight grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Affirmation, Family Issues, Marriage, Parenting, Speech and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Sacred Greeting

  1. Sherry McMillen says:

    This is a very nice picture of a socialized understanding of God. The problem I have with it is that once the holy kiss has been socialized into a worldly greeting of hello, how do you transform that socially acceptable greeting into an actual heart rending transfer of God’s truth from one person to the other? If the other person has the socialized skills to exchange this socialized holiness, yet has no holiness in their heart, how do you convey to them that their social skills are not the equivalent of holiness? The other problem of course is that the depth of relationship that would be extended by a truly holy kiss rather than a socially acceptable kiss is never truly reached. A truly holy kiss would give both greeters the awareness that they are in the presence of a holy God who loves righteousness, judgment and truth with all of the passion of a God who sent his only begotten Son so that we might have the privilege of obtaining that righteousness, judgment and truth without being condemned in the process of obtaining it. In other words, in a culture that has been socialized into believing that God is a socialist: how do you let them know he hates socialism with his very being without revealing how much he hates it?

    I speak in terms of being a member of a lost and dying world that has been trained to think like socialists rather than like believers in the living God. In America, one is more likely to face socialists than terrorists; yet, both are equally dangerous. Socialists are more deadly to the eternal since terrorists are more likely to drive people to their knees in search of the Holy God. So, how do you put to death the spirit of the socialist so that the spirit of Christ may dwell in them? I am looking forward to the death of Jezebel so that peace may reign. Since Jezebel remains alive by the socialized doctrines that she feeds to her children, I just wonder how do you give Jezebel a “holy kiss” and not come away with the spiritual VD of socialism? How do you stop the deadly disease of socialism once you greet a socialist at the door of the church with a “holy kiss”? God tells us to greet the brethren with a holy kiss. I’m not saying it is not okay to smile and greet a stranger — I am saying, if we fail to understand the difference between holy and unholy, even at the door of the church, when will we begin to understand the difference between holy and unholy?

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