Summary: Paul and others included greetings in their letters. What's the significance of that and is that something I need to be focused on? Let's find out.
In my Church Leaders newsletter Thursday, they had an article about suicide prevention because it was world suicide prevention day. It covered a variety of subjects pertaining to suicide but it also highlighted that it was on the rise during COVID. This is understandable, with all the restrictions that have limited social interaction. This creates a greater need to reach out to people; especially during COVID and especially to those who are more socially vulnerable.
This article along with some conversations I had recently got me thinking about the times in the bible where Paul and others included greetings in their letters. What's the significance of that and is that something I need to be focused on doing? Let's find out.
Romans is a deep letter dealing with some intense, theological topics. Paul talks about sin and judgment as well as love and grace. He talks about the law and that no one is righteous. He goes after sexual immorality and the need to put sin to death. He gives commands and encouragements. He talks about the need to stay connected to God. But when we get to the final chapter, Paul switches gears and goes into greet mode.
Rom. 16:3-16, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings."
Here we see a list of people Paul wants the Romans to greet. Paul doesn't say, 'tell everyone I said, hi'; he's specific. Paul uses the word greet 17 times! Greet this one and that one and greet so and so, etc. And he gives details to many of them. Greet Pricilla and Aquila, my fellow workers who risked their lives for me. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ, and so on.
He finishes the list of greetings by saying, "greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings." "Holy kiss". Paul reiterates this in his two letters to the Corinthians as well as 1 Thess. 5:26. In 1 Pet. 5:14 it says, "greet one another with a kiss of love". This would be like what certain cultures practice today when they give each other a quick kiss on each cheek. For us it would be the hug or handshake.
But Paul was advocating something beyond a quick, 'hello'. We can give a friendly greeting but there's a proper place for handshakes and hugs also. We leave room for someone who may have an issue with hugs; especially from the opposite sex, but that's why Paul and Peter talk about a holy kiss. This sentiment has no illicit intent behind it; only pure Christian love. If I'm hugging someone in church my motive needs to be platonic in nature. But we see that greetings were important.
Although Paul said in vs. 16 that all the churches of Christ send their greetings, he gets specific in vs. 21-23.
Rom. 16:21-23, "Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings."
In the beginning of the chapter, Paul mentions the people who he wants the Romans to greet on his behalf. Now he switches it up by mentioning the ones who are sending their greetings to the church in Rome. As I said earlier, given the intensity of Romans it almost seems out of place to go from the powerful, intellectual and challenging words to Paul sending greetings. He goes from strong to gentle. One might think with all that needed to be addressed in such an important letter to the Roman church, why spend time writing all these greetings?