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December 2022 GPS

In the September issue of GPS I began a series I called “Spiritual Lessons from Covid 19.” I am really getting tired of thinking and talking about Covid, so I have decided to change the title of this series to one that more accurately describes the purpose of the studies: “Biblical Lessons about How We Are to Treat One Another.” Since we celebrate Christmas in December, and since it is a joyful month in which we send greetings (Christmas cards) to one another and express our joy as we sing (carols) to one another, we will look at passages that call us to do those very things.   

Three passages in the New Testament contain instructions from Paul about greeting one another: (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12). All three say exactly the same thing: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:12, ESV) One other verse is similar: “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14a, ESV) Regarding the act of a kiss, one New Testament scholar writes: “A kiss appears in the New Testament as a sign of respect and greeting (Luke 7:45), of love and reverence (Luke 7:38, 45), and of reconciliation and family fellowship (Luke 15:20). We find a parting kiss in Acts 20:37. But a “holy kiss” represents something more than a social custom. It is a sign of mutual fellowship among persons of mixed social background, nationality, race, and gender who are joined together as a new family in Christ. The holy kiss becomes a token of the joy, love, reconciliation, peace, and communion that Christians know in Christ and with one another.”1 In our western culture where kissing may have sexual connotations, we can express greetings other ways. The original Living Bible read “Greet each other warmly in the Lord.” I think I recall another paraphrase from many years ago that had the rendering, “Greet one another with a holy handshake.” In any case, the essential idea being conveyed is that believers are to express genuine love and affection for one another flowing out of a heart filled with real agape love. If we recall the bond that we have with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, causing us to treat one another in a way that reflects that common bond, we will be glad to see one another, and we will express that fact in the way we greet one another. When we see people we really love we show that love by the way we greet them. The way we show it will differ depending upon the relationship but we will show it one way or another. It may be a kiss or a hug or a handshake, but in any case is will express genuine joy at being with the people we are greeting. The greeting may also take the form of something written. Whole churches send greetings to other churches in writing (“All the saints greet you.” 2 Corinthians 13:13, ESV).  At Christmas many people send and receive greeting cards. Hopefully, they express the same kind of love and affection. In whatever form the greeting takes, it is important that we take the time and effort to express the love and appreciation we have for one another in the body of Christ. Again I would observe that although written communication or (in our day) electronic communication may be necessary, there is no substitute for greeting one another in person.  

We are also instructed to sing to one another. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 5:18–20, ESV) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16, ESV) It is certainly true that when we sing, we are to sing to the Lord, but it is also true that we are to sing to one another. How do we do that? When we, as a congregation sing in the presence of one another, “A mighty fortress is our God,” we remind one another of God’s power and ability to defend us. When we sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” we bear testimony to one another of the grace of God that reached down to save one so undeserving as we are. Even when we sing to the Lord, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” other people hear and are reminded of that attribute of our Father. Now, it is certainly possible to watch a worship service on television or via our YouTube channel and hear others singing, and in some cases that is the only way people can participate. That only makes it possible for the ministry to be one way, however. If there is a choice, this kind of mutual ministry can be performed most effectively in person. Down through the years I can bear testimony to the fact that on many, many Sundays I arrived at our church discouraged, unhappy, afraid or just miserable but when we began to sing the great hymns of the faith my whole attitude changed as I heard my brothers and sisters sing those great words. They may not realize it but they were singing to me and my heart was blessed in a way that rarely happens when I am not there in person. 1 1 Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, pp. 554–555). Broadman & Holman Publishers.