Greet One Another (revised)
An Introduction to Godly Character
1 Peter 5:14 (NIV)
Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I was just a little boy living with my grandparents on the farm when my grandmother first gave me the instruction to speak to others and greet them. She explained that it was important to show respect, and concern for their well being. I didn't understand it at the time. It seemed strange that I should go out of my way speaking to strangers and others I didn't know… still she insisted, and I sure didn't want to get on her bad side. If nothing else… getting on my grandmother’s bad side was something I did understand.
Today I live in the fast pace of the big city. It’s been many years since that humbled introduction, but I can’t help but reflect on the impact my grandmother’s words have had on my life. I watch as people live for years not really knowing their neighbors name or ever speaking to them. There is widespread violence, and the news is filled with the acts of bitter and depressed people. I sometimes wonder if this would change with a simple return to the practice of greeting each other and showing a daily concern for the well being of others around us.
Romans 14:7 (KJV)
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
No man is an island and none of us lives in this world alone. We face a common adversary that we all need help in keeping at bay. The life we live in this world is a struggle against sin; like it or not, know it or not, believe it or not, we face a hidden enemy that seeks to destroy us. Our life, as well as our death is accomplished with assistance… we can’t do it alone.
Romans 14:19 (KJV)
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Sometimes we become so involved with our own sufferings that we overlook the fact that others around us are suffering too. Scripture instructs us not only to suffer along with Christ, but to also share in the suffering of each other, being an encouragement.
Romans 12:15 (KJV)
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
It would seem kind of difficult following this instruction when our posture is reserved and standoffish.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 (KJV)
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
From where I stand there doesn't appear to be much of this going on. At least not at the basic levels where individuals address each other.
Hebrews 11:25 (KJV)
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season
Given a choice, most all of us spend our time trying to avoiding affliction, and when you really get honest… most of our pleasures involve some kind of sinful indulgence. All the while we find more and more adversity riddled with pain with each passing day. How much longer can we continue in this destructive behaviour… ignoring others and being so self centered that we embrace the very sinful acts that bring about the woes of all concerned. I would think a little encouragement and sound instruction would be welcomed.
The book of I Peter was written sometime before 64-65 AD, as both a letter of encouragement and instruction during a time of great suffering in the Church. This was about the same time that the city of Rome was set on fire and Emperor Nero named Christians as being responsible. It is widely believed that he set the fire himself in order to arouse support for persecution. The reality is that many believers were arrested and put to death in horrific ways, being used as sport for entertainment and amusement in the arena. This began the period commonly known as the era of Christian Martyrdom.
Peter sends word telling the brothers to hold to their steadfastness and perseverance under persecution. Although it was sent to the Churches of Asia Minor, it still addresses the problems associated with the unpopularity faced by those of the faith. The 5th, and last chapter comprises a section that focuses on specific counsel for pastors and others of leadership. In order that we understand fully the context of what is being advised, Peter sets the tone in verses 2-3.
1 Peter 5:2-3 (KJV)
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.
All of us could stand to be a bit more considerate and respectful of the needs of others. Christians especially, from the pulpit to the pew, are to see to the needs of the flock, taking the lead to be an example. Never should our action be from the standpoint of obligation or with an iron fist as one of powerful rule; instead we do so willingly without thought of personal gain. Anyone who endeavors of being an example does so with the hope that those who are observing will also join the action. The whole work of the Church… which includes everybody in it, is in serving Christ by preparing others for works of service. For all who would call themselves members of the clergy: Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and all other ministers... anyone in a position of leadership… fostering Godly Character is the particular goal of leadership.
Verses 5-8 gives a list of behavior that helps to shape that character; the kind of character that Christ had in His dealings with those around Him. We should act with submission, especially to our elders, and generally to each other. Remember also to be humble, waiting on the Lord to exalt us in His time and in His way, instead of being anxious and rushing into our own agendas. The kind of thing that usually gets us into trouble and generally brings distress to others in the first place.
God is the source of our strength and we must be mindful to take our concerns to “Him.” Only after prayer and Godly counsel can we remain sober and vigilant, exercising self-control in pursuing a course that brings glory to “Him.” Otherwise we may be inadvertently giving a foothold to the enemy.
All of this is good advice and can be put to use by lay people and leadership alike. Certainly it applies just as much now as it did in Peter’s time. Times are hard and people everywhere are suffering. The general mood is one of despair. Many have lost hope or placed their hope in what is obviously the wrong place. At some point in all our lives we would all benefit from a little Godly instruction and encouragement.
There is one thing about encouragement and being an example to others that we all need to understand... its simply this. It has to start somewhere. Encouragement must have a starting point. At the same time, if we are going to be an example to anyone we must first have their attention. Greeting others is a nice way of solving both these requirements. It also places us in a great position to make use of all the Godly instruction and advice given by Peter in chapter 5 of his letter. It leaves me to think that it just might have been the very reason why the reminder to “Greet One Another” with a kiss of charity is the closing instruction.
I suspect my grandmother’s insistence on my greeting others stems from a practice that is well established and long in standing. As I look back, I remember it as one of my first, if not the first introduction to "Godly Character"... and one she felt very strongly was of importance. I'm glad to have received it as a little boy, so early on. When I also recall the example of her reading scripture daily, I really don’t have to look to hard for the answer of how it came to her.