I think that the art of greeting others has faded from what it once was. From the days when letters were hand-written (because no other options existed!) and offered warm regards or sincerest congratulations, e-mail and text messages often skip the niceties of greetings and jump right into the facts. That’s efficient (and I’m not always opposed to those conventions, depending on the environment), but often not nearly as personal or comforting.
We don’t have to just pine for the past, though. There are still those who have made greeting others into a work of performance art. From gregarious hugs, to complex handshakes, to elaborate rituals, good friends express their appreciation for one another’s company in a lot of different ways. Alternatively, to see something that will warm your heart (or possibly turn your stomach!), just watch two people in love say goodbye to each other at the airport.
In the final verse of the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul closes with the following blessing:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14 NASB
To be honest, openings and closings of the New Testament epistles (the letters from various followers of Jesus to others) can sometimes feel like just transitional verses for me to power through when I’m reading. I personally enjoy doctrinal or instructional sections a little more, especially when specific verses or passages prove to be timely and helpful in my daily life.
However, God put all of the Bible together for a reason, so even these “bookends” of the letters are worth at least a little bit of our time. What might this blessing look like for us, today?
First, I believe that all three of these things can be enjoyed in our relationship with God: who is both one God, and three Persons.
- After Jesus had mercy on us, being willing to pay the price for our sins, He went over and above just redeeming us. In grace, He taught us how to find an abundant life in Him. To keep living in fear of the law, or to not enjoy the freedom of following Jesus, is to miss this grace.
- The Bible is replete with examples of the God’s love. He instructed us in what that should look like, through commands on how to treat others, as well as poetic descriptions of what true love looks like. More than that, though, He has showed mankind throughout history how much He loves people. For us to miss out on appreciating this love is to live in a dark place, indeed.
- Before Jesus returned to Heaven after His resurrection, He promised the Holy Spirit. More than some of the surface relationships that pass for fellowship (although a good potluck can bring great spiritual results), the Holy Spirit is so close to us as to be in us. We can walk through life with His guidance, as well as His intercession on our behalf. Or, we could close our hearts and live in silence, missing out on the rewards of God’s wisdom.
On the other hand, these joys can also be celebrated with others, especially those who are also following Jesus and enjoy the same blessings in their relationships with God.
- If we deal with other people (who are imperfect, just like us), we have opportunities to extend grace. This may take the form of serving those who may have wronged us, or giving to those who don’t otherwise “deserve” it.
- With a perfect example of a loving God (whose holiness brings both love and justice), we have the chance to love others. True love (not the shallow kind) has many facets, and gives us a chance to reflect some portion of the nature of God, in whose image we were created.
- Once we are enjoying the company of other believers, as we celebrate the closeness that we have with the Holy Spirit, we find true fellowship. More than just spending time together, there is a sense of community and belonging that comes with being part of the body of Christ. It is a family like no other on earth.
So, please allow me to extend the same blessing to you as Paul delivered to the believers in Corinth. It is my prayer that you can experience these things, both with God, and with others!