The “Magical Surprise” of a warm greeting
One of the last commands Paul writes to believers in 1 Thessalonians is a command I have carefully ignored through all of my Christian life. In 1 Thessalonians 5:26 we are commanded, “Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.”
The reason I have carefully ignored this command is that I have the tendency to take the Bible literally even when the intent of the Scripture is to teach a principle instead. I was not about to put into practice the literal command of kissing everybody at church, so I simply ignored this command.
But I now begin to see that there is a vital principle taught in this command that I should not ignore and that no follower of Christ should ignore
The broad principle here is that we should greet one another within the fellowship of believers with depth of care and with enthusiasm and integrity.
Specific applications of this verse include at least three specifics:
1: To “greet all God’s people with a holy kiss” means that I am called to extend a warm welcome and caring encouragement to my brothers and sisters. It would be good for me to remember how much it means to me to receive a warm welcome and caring encouragement, so that I might be conscientious about extending it to others.
Charles Morgan remarks, “There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God’s finger on man’s shoulder.” When we extend to others a warm greeting and caring encouragement, we help them to feel God’s finger on their shoulders. We get the opportunity to participate in such a magical moment through something as simple as a warm greeting and caring encouragement.
2: To “greet all God’s people with a holy kiss” means that I am called to greet all of my brothers and sisters with warmth and concern.
The early church was a melting pot where Jewish believers and Gentile converts were now brothers and sisters with each other, where slaves and free were equal, where distinctions of race or ethnicity or gender were tossed aside by our common unity as fellow recipients of the grace of God. Whenever such distinctions flared up in the early church, New Testament letters (like 1 Corinthians and James) were written to call believers back to unity in Christ. The church today is meant to be such a melting pot where our unity is in this alone: You and I desperately need God’s forgiveness for our sins and we receive it by the grace of God through Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
3: To “greet all God’s people with a holy kiss” means that my greeting of my brothers and sisters, and all of my dealings with them, must be governed by holiness and integrity. I must not greet or deal with a brother or sister in a way that is inappropriate. I must never take advantage of a brother or sister in anyway.
Too many people have shared with me the deep pain they have experienced from some sinful Christian leader who touched them inappropriately or who molested them or raped them. Too many people have shared with me the pain they have experienced from some sinful Christian leader who bullied them or took advantage of them financially or in some other way abused their position. There is no place for such behavior in the body of Christ. It is evil and cannot be tolerated. The emphasis on holiness here is purposeful.
I hope I can do a better job of putting into practice the principle behind this command.