In our Western civilization, friendly greetings between people are greatly diminishing. Today people greet each other with a simple “Hi”, and sometimes they just nod the head and move the eyes. Many times the words are not even pronounced correctly. In some parts of the country we can hear people saying: “Wassap?!?”, “Yo!”, “Hi”, “How doing?”, “How ya goin?”.
In other cultures, greetings are more intense and complex. There is a hug, an embrace, a kiss, and words biding welcome and wishing well. In the case of Israelites for example, on meeting and at parting, generally the formula “šālôm lĕkā” is used. In fact a journey could be slow down by frequently saluting.
Paul and Peter in their letters asked the brothers and sisters to greet each other with a kiss: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. Rom. 16:16”, “All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 1 Cor. 16:20”, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. 2 Cor. 13:12″, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. 1 Pet. 5:14.” In some of the texts, Paul add the adjective “holy” to the kiss, and Peter mentioned the kiss of love. It means that the kisses were supposed to be holy, without malice, with respect and as a demonstration of love for the brother and sister.
The kiss was intended to show hospitality. This is how our brothers and sisters from that era and that part of the world would welcome the disciples. Hospitality is something that our generation is lacking. There are so many things that can prevent us from welcoming someone into our lives, homes, neighborhoods, and churches. This can cause people to feel left out and undesirable. We do that with words and attitudes, or the lack of them. The apostle Peter wrote: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.” We should offer hospitality without complaining. I understand very well that different cultures have different ways of greeting each other, and in some cultures physical touching means something totally different. But we should still try to find ways in each culture to let the person know that he or she is welcome.
Our biggest challenge with hospitality is passing judgment. Most of the time, we look at the person and judge him/her even before we greet them. Maybe it is the clothing, the color, the accent, etc. Sometimes we find a way to define the person before he or she is able to open their mouths. Paul writing to the Romans, tried to prevent that when he said: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. Romans 14:13.” The words “passing judgement” mean among other things: “to decide, consider, as preferring one thing over another or determining the correctness of a matter, condemn in a legal sense.” Before we get close to the person or talk to him or her, we have already decided if they are good, worthy, and right, and we made up our mind about their character.
A little bit further in his letter, Paul will write that our greatest example of hospitality is our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what he wrote: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7.” We should accept people and welcome them without judgement.
The Kingdom of God is open to everybody who believes in Jesus. If God Himself is willing to accept a person, we should do the same. We accept because He accepted us first.
Have a blessed week,