Greet One Another

Romans 16:1-16

At Park Central we believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. We stake our practices and beliefs on the idea that we will “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” We do this through a process called hermeneutics, which is a .50-cent word for explaining what the Bible says. It is our understanding that God has directed us in one of three different ways.

First we believe that we must follow the commands of God. The command or statement can either be specific like Acts 2:38 where we read, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Or general Matthew 28:19-20 where we read “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Specific commands are just that, specific while general commands include the things necessary to carry out the general command.

Next we believe in following the examples of Christ or the Apostles. This is the example of the practice of the New Testament church under the guidance of the apostles who in turn taught and practiced what they received from the Lord. It’s what we find in Acts 6 when the church choose deacons to work with the poor so that the Apostles could continue their responsibilities of preaching and teaching.

And finally we believe in Natural Inference – or common sense. A necessary inference or implication is something that is not expressly stated but implied or inferred by the language used. A good illustration of this is Hebrews 10:25, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. In this passage an assembly is commanded. This verse does not mention a place to assemble but one must necessarily infer that people cannot assemble without some place at which to meet.

Now with that being said this morning, I want to show you one of the most over-looked, under-practiced, and least considered commandments in the inspired word of God. And it occurs not once, not twice, but five times in the New Testament.

1 Peter 5:14, "Greet one another with a kiss of love."

1 Thessalonians 5:26, "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss."

1 Corinthians 16:20, "Greet one another with a holy kiss."

2 Corinthians 13:12, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." They had to be told twice

Romans 16:16, "Greet one another with a holy kiss."

Five passages, two apostles, one command. Right now some of you are thinking, "All right! I was hoping to find a friendly church and it looks like my prayers have been answered. Welcome to Kissing Church of Christ."

And some of you are thinking last week he said that the Bible teaches we should respond if everything was going good, and I thought he was a little off his rocker, but now I know he’ s just plain crazy. Looks like it's time to find a new church."

Before you commit too quickly to either place membership or renounce it, let me set the context for these commands. Look with me in Romans 16. We'll read verses 1-16. (Read text)

This is what I call one of those phone-book passages; on first glance it's about as compelling and meaningful as reading a list of names from the phone book. It's just a bunch of hard to pronounce names. Theologian Emil Brunner, however, said, "Romans 16 is one of the most instructive chapters in the New Testament because it encourages personal relationships of love in the church."

Despite it's rather dull first impression, this text has a lot to tell us about how we are to treat one another, and the importance of the body.

First we must understand that We live in an isolated Society

Mobility was just as much a feature of life in first century Roman culture as it is in ours. The travel was obviously more primitive, but they got around. When Paul wrote the letter, he had never visited the Roman church, but he seemed to know so many people there. That is because the Roman society depended on mobility much like we do today.

In the face of that mobility and the long distances that separated him from people he loved, Paul was able to forge deep, meaningful relationships with his friends. Now you don't need a theology degree or a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out how relevant that ability is for us. How many of you are in a social network like Twitter or Facebook? 

How many of you use email on a regular basis?

How many of you have cell phones?

How many of you have voice mail or answering machines at home?

We have more ways to stay in touch than a shark has teeth. And even with all of that accessibility we are more isolated and alone than ever. Our relationships have been reduced to a series of zeroes and ones streaming along high speed cables roughly at the same pace of our lives. We are more electronically connected than ever, yet more relationally disconnected. We send and receive more messages, but communicate less.

So when we encounter a command that orders us to speak to one another, to touch one another, to slow down and greet one another, we've encountered something that can change our lives.

Secondly we see that Greeting One Another Is A Big Deal

You see when I read in Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. My eyes naturally gravitate to the word kiss.  But that’s not the important part of the passage.  In the first century a kiss was a symbol of acceptance, much like we shake hands today. And the kiss had different meanings depending on who you were addressing.

If you were on equal terms then you would offer a kiss on the cheek.  If you were close friends then you would offer a kiss on both cheeks. If a child was addressing a parent or a student addressing his rabbi it was customary for the greeting to be a kiss on the hand.

To neglect this ritual was the equivalent of ignoring someone.  Imagine if Trista and I invite you over to dinner Friday evening at 7:00. Friday comes and you arrive promptly at 7:00.  When you drive up in our driveway you notice the back door is open. You knock but we don’t come to the door. You hear us talking in the house so you open the door and come in.  When you enter the living room there we are sitting on the couch watching TV.  We don’t acknowledge that you have arrived, we don’t get up; we don’t turn the TV down, we do nothing to acknowledge that you are there. Would you feel greeted? Would you feel welcome? Or would you just walk out? 

So with apologies to our young men here today this is not the kissing verse but the greeting verse, because greeting one another is a big deal. Greeting is important because People are important. I think that there are many things we can take with us today from just the names in Romans 16.

For one thing, they represent a rich racial mix.

It is very important for us to realize that the list includes both Jews and Gentiles. And racially you don’t get farther apart then these two groups. Even though most of us here today are from gentile lines we don’t have that problem today but we still have ways of separating ourselves from others don’t we?

When Trista and I were discussing the possibility of moving to start this work with you one of the things that we considered was your accents. Now most of you are saying what accent, we sound normal. And for South East Texas you do, but the problem is not everyone talks like you do. You see being a Southerner, we have a certain drawl or inflection to our words. A few years ago I was in Seattle, Washington and I was asked on more that one occasion if I knew Larry the Cable guy. 

In every part of the country there is always that desire to put someone else down because they don’t look, sound, or act like us.  I believe that Paul's command to the Romans to greet one another was a way of breaking down the racial barriers that divided those Christians. A way of physically showing them that at the foot of the cross we are all equal.

Next this list shows that Christ is greater that social rank

Many of the names in Paul's list were common slave names. Ampliatus (8), Urbanus (9), Hermes (14), Philologus and Julia (15).

Some, however, were from a different social class. Narcissus was a rich and powerful man who exercised considerable influence over Emperor Claudius. Rufus is thought to be the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus' cross to Golgotha. Aristobulus is thought by many to be the grandson of Herod the Great and friend to Emperor Claudius.

Paul's command to greet one another was a way of breaking down the social barriers that divided those Christians. A way of physically showing them that at the foot of the cross we are all equal.

And Thirdly this list shows that a greeting is more important that gender differences

Did you notice that nine of the twenty-six names are women, and four of them are commended for their hard work? Phoebe, in fact, probably delivered the letter.

In a society where women we considered worthless, Christ and His teachings showed how very valuable these women were and are to the work of the body. Paul's command to the Romans to greet one another was a way of breaking down the gender barriers that divided those Christians. A way of physically showing them that at the foot of the cross we are all equal.

I want to give some entrepreneur here an idea for a bumper sticker and if you use it to make a million dollars, all I ask in return is that you remember the mission fund. Here it is: World peace begins with hello

Now I'm not telling you that all we have to do is say, "Hi," to each other and nuclear disarmament begins to break out everywhere. But what I am saying is that without that first step, nothing more will or can happen. Greeting people is the first and most important step in breaking down barriers.

I believe that The Bible is telling us that Park Central has got to be a church that values people. And for that to happen every one of us has got to be involved. You've been to unfriendly churches. Remember how do you felt when someone wouldn’t even speak to you?  Rarely do we go back. Apparently, so had Paul. So he says, "I don't want yours to be that way. I want you to develop a warm, loving, engaging, touching church."

I was privileged to be able to grow up in a house with a woman who truly knew how to greet people. Every time we entered a room, or more importantly tried to leave a room my mom was surrounded by a group of people. From watching her I have learned the three secrets to effectively greeting one another. And I want to close with them today. 


Mark tells us that Jesus touched the man with leprosy. Luke tells us Jesus laid his hands on the children. It is truly a gift but like every other gift God has given us, we've turned touch into something it wasn't intended to be. Peter and Paul both put a very important qualifier in front of the word kiss. They called it the holy kiss. And I believe that we can begin to redeem human touch by making it holy as well.

I am a touchy person so if you want to come and pick me up off the ground squeeze me and shake all of the change out of my pockets that’s fine with me.  But I also realize that not everyone is like that, so I try to read everyone.  Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am not but there are some touches that are always safe.

There is the preachers handshake, you know the two handed body shaking type, a pat of the back, a hand on the shoulder.  Just quick, safe, holy touches that don’t violate anyone’s space. But make a warmer church. 

Remember names

For some of us this is harder than others, but I believe that it shows people how valuable they are to us personally.  If you forget it is OK to ask their names again, or do like my mom does and call every woman ladybug, and every man sir. 


Which once again for some of us is harder than others. That’s it.  I believe that if we are going to fulfill this commandment then we must be people who are willing to touch, remember names, and speak.

Right now you might be wondering why we spent an entire sermon on something so simple and so apparently unimportant? I mean is it really worth this much time to talk about something that isn't going to make that big a difference?

Well, in the Fall of 1991 someone greeted me with a handshake and an introduction. I was a freshman in College, away from home for the first time, a little afraid, alone and intimidated. This guy walking past my dorm room stopped and said and in a shaky voice said, "Hi, I'm Wayne Dalrymple I’m from Boaz, and I'm scared to death."

At least once a month I talk with Wayne, just to check in. Wayne knows my secrets. He's heard my confessions. I've heard his. That relationship began with a simple greeting that has made all the difference in the world.

I'm asking you to go out there this week and do a very simple, but very powerful, very Biblical thing. Greet one another. Every time you enter a room your attitude says one of two things. Here I am! Or, There you are! I'm asking you to go out there this week with a "There you are," attitude.

That's how God wants to greet you. There you are. I've been hoping we'd meet and there you are. That's the most important greeting you will ever receive and it is waiting for you.


Questions To Consider


How would you describe your best friend?


What makes them so special to you?


How did that friendship begin?


Do you struggle feeling isolated?


What contributes to those feeling of isolation?


What originally attracted you to this church?


Is it easy or difficult for you to be a greeter in this church?


If it is difficult, how can you improve the temperature of this body?


How can you touch people in a holy way?


How does Luke 6:31 fit into this discussion?





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