Monday, 23 March 2015
Colossians 1:1-14 Preview: Greetings
How do you greet people? Do you look them in the eye like your mother told you to? Give them a firm handshake and a friendly smile? Or do you breeze past the formalities and get right down to business?
Hey, how’s it going? That’s how I greet the people who come to my Pilates class. I rarely look them in the eye, because I’m busy setting up the equipment. I try to acknowledge their presence with a quick glance, but sometimes I don’t even see them come in.
They, too, are preoccupied. They put away their stuff, ask me what weights we’ll be using, claim their place in the room, pop into the restroom. They’re busy, too.
This feels normal to both of us. They came for a workout, not a chat. So let’s get down to business.
Seeing the person before starting the business. Now I know these things are culturally conditioned. San Diego culture has certain ways to meet and greet. We tend to be informal, positive (all that sunshine), activity oriented (surf’s up!), and throw out words like “awesome” a lot. If we lived in New York City, we’d probably be more aggressive, decisive, a little sarcastic, and use words like “whaddaya want?”
But how does a Christian greet people no matter what the culture? Is there a way to bring Christ into my San Diego style of speaking and interacting?
Paul’s example. That’s what Paul did. According to the commentaries, Paul begins his letters the way all writers did at the time. It was customary to say who was writing, who you were writing to, and give a greeting. Paul takes this cultural norm and infuses it with Christian meaning.
He doesn’t just identify himself, he identifies himself in Christ. He doesn’t just say the names of the recipients or give them honor according to custom, he proclaims the truth of their identity in Christ. He doesn’t just wish them well, but blesses them with gospel blessings, grace and peace. It’s not just perfunctory, it’s deeply meaningful.
His example especially helps me think about how I greet my friends at church. Paul’s greeting was specifically directed to insiders, brothers in Christ. (He would use different words with outsiders, Colossians 4:5-6). I often rush into church, arms loaded with things to return to people, mind filled with things I need to say to people, eyes darting past the person in front of me to find someone else. Business. Paul’s words remind me to look my brother or sister in the eye, grasp their hand, and warmly honor Christ in them.
So, thanks, Mom, for good training! Thanks Paul for showing me what it looks like in Christ.