From the Pastor
Message from Jim
Message from Pastor Jim



From Pastor Jim

While the start of the liturgical calendar is the first Sunday of Advent, January 1 remains a popular global holiday for celebrating the new year. (January 1 as New Year’s Day has Christian origins, too, since the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582). Some churches hold watchnight services on New Year’s Eve. Other Christians join in the traditional effort to make and keep New Year’s resolutions.

One possible resolution for 2019 might be for Christians to work on being kind to one another. In his biography of Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, Colin Duriez tells us that Schaeffer was known for his kindness. In Escape from Reason, Schaeffer recounts meeting a young man who attended one of his lectures. He describes him as having a “good-looking, sensitive face, long curly hair, sandals on his feet and ... wearing blue jeans.” Schaeffer greeted him the next day, provoking this response: “Sir, that was a beautiful greeting. Why do you greet me like that?” The great evangelist and apologist replied, “Because I know who you are--I know that you are made in the image of God.”

I hope we learn from that experience that greetings matter. Jesus knew this: “If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matt. 5:47)

Our parents taught us that character is largely formed through manners, even by how we acknowledge the presence of others. In 2019, walk down city streets and there are no greetings. People would find it odd if others greeted them with a “Good morning” or a “Hello.” It’s sad that people are afraid to greet one another positively. I would hope that our Sun City West and surrounding communities are different. We wear name tags! We should be able to greet one another warmly.

Douglas R. Groothuis, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, has noted, “Even in seemingly small ways, we contribute to each other’s destiny through our speech and our silence.” His words make us reflect and ask, as we begin a new year, a time in which we re-evaluate many of our habits: How might one develop good habits in greeting other people?

Groothuis offers some ideas that I have abbreviated here. Throughout the day, we can pronounce a silent blessing on those we encounter. Groothuis offers an example. He says he often prays silently for a person he he has just walked by, “May God bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you, and give you peace.” If you need more ideas for blessings to pray, the Bible is packed with blessings and benedictions for our discovery and use. Thinking and praying this way opens us up to greeting people with heartfelt good wishes and without fear.

Another idea might be to not greet everyone we see with words, but we can at least acknowledge them with brief eye contact or a smile. Be positive! I have disciplined myself to do this.  I intentionally try to smile at those I pass by as I walk. I have found that more than half the people I walk by divert their eyes away from making eye contact. Of course, maybe they were just lost in thought and concerned about what they had to get done.

Other settings call for more involvement, as when we meet our waiter or barista. Be positive and greet these people who are serving you with a smile and kind words. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, had it right in one of his formulations of the categorical imperative: “Always act in such a way that you treat Humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another as an end in itself and never merely as a means.”

One need not exchange names to recognize a person as valuable in their own right or a center of irreplaceable worth. A sincere “hello” and a smile may be enough. Perhaps one could say something complimentary to the person but without being too personal. Too many busy, multitasking people focused on electronics barely acknowledge the humanity of their servers, especially in settings of rapid delivery, such as Starbucks.

When being introduced to an image-bearer of God, kindness leads us to make eye contact, smile and offer appropriate touch, which is usually a handshake. Those from non-American cultures will have different sensibilities, and this should be kept in mind. (In some cultures, it is forbidden for men to touch women in public.) I have found that after being introduced or introducing yourself, saying something kind (but not silly) will tend to put people at ease. It seems like a small thing, but it really isn’t. How we greet--or fail to greet--others says much about our character. Especially in the church, we ought to greet our brothers and sisters in Christ with a warm greeting on Sunday mornings, as well as throughout the week. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we ought acknowledge the presence of people by recognizing them for who they are: creatures made in God’s image.

-- Jim



Last Published: January 11, 2019 1:00 PM
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