The kingdom of God is not an amusement park seeking to distract me occasionally from the daily grind. His kingdom is not a self-improvement program, working to make me a superior person, and the world a better place.
No. It’s a kingdom arising from a battlefield.
In any KINGdom there can only be one King! Not two. To enter His kingdom means I have been defeated, captured, and owned. Won by love and grace, I have surrendered my little “kingdom” and laid down my arms, abandoning my role in the ancient, ongoing rebellion. Christ the Victor has taken my heart as His dwelling place.
Yes, He is “mine.” But, more significantly, it must be underscored that I AM HIS! Won as precious spoil in a bloody battle for souls.
In 2003 my wife and I made a run down to Yazoo City, Miss. for the funeral of her grandmother. A wonderful believer born in 1916, she lived her entire life in the hills just above the Delta cotton fields with a simple faith and an unconditional love for people.
Conducting her funeral in a little Methodist church near her home, I was reminded of something often lost to congregants of newer church buildings: the cemetery next door.
When the old timers built their churches they didn’t worry about parking or a premium location. They didn’t have a website with streaming audio of the most recent sermons. Nor did they have projected images for sermon outlines or song lyrics.
But the old timers who built their churches with the cemeteries next door lived with a stunning, weekly reminder that death was near and life was short. Each time they entered and exited the church building, the markers of the dead stood before them as silent messengers of a very real eternity awaiting all of us.
As I stood before family and friends and reminded them that “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54), I looked out and saw that cemetery. To emphasize Christ’s victory over death in the face of a constant reminder of death was a little easier there–with a cemetery next door.
You may not have a cemetery next door anymore, but the need for that weekly reminder remains–as much as ever.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another 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.
1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Do you remember your first kiss? Sure you do! What makes it so special? What is it about a kiss that so captures the imagination and heart of our culture?
Let me suggest that with a kiss we are communicating our affection and acceptance of another person. Intimacy. Warmth. With just a kiss.
Every culture has a way of doing that, but we have done it for centuries with a kiss. Two millennia have not altered the basic message. Paul wants us to greet one another with the highest form of affection.
How can we do this today?
(1) Determine to take every instance of greeting seriously – Paul is really issuing a command to obey. Greeting one another is a non-optional activity. So we ought to carefully reflect on how we normally greet others. We should avoid simple protocol greetings when possible — let’s get real!
(2) Take the focus off yourself and place it on the other person – Think about the kind of recognition you would want to receive. Think about the times when a poor greeting was hurtful to you.
(3) Learn and use a person’s name in your greeting – Think of the other person as family. Knowing and using a name is a measure of a person’s significance to you. Paul greeted no less than 25 persons by name in Romans 16 in a city he had never visited! Names are vital.
(4) Bless the person with affirmation and interest – “Pause” for the person as you greet them. Acknowledge enduring qualities you appreciate about them. Ask them genuine, probing questions. Introduce them to others with words of affirmation.
(5) And yes – do use an appropriate physical expression of affection – Paul stresses use of the “holy kiss” — please understand that he was referring to greetings between the same sexes! While the function of greeting never changes, but the physical form may vary from culture to culture. Whether it’s a warm handshake and a hug, a squeeze of a shoulder or arm, or a simple pat on the back – we must not offend or tempt others with the physical form of our greeting. But don’t be afraid to display warm affection.
1 Corinthians 11:33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…
Do you remember rushing to get the best place in the lunch line as a kid? Do you still see that behavior during morning rush hour? I do… and sometimes it’s me trying to get that “vital” space ahead of someone else. It’s stupid.
In Corinth, Paul learned believers were eating up the potluck dishes before others arrived. How rude! Yet it was being done with relish! (no pun intended) Paul directed the Corinthians to “wait for one another”. And Peter elaborates on this idea by encouraging his readers to “be tenderhearted, be courteous”.
But this outward courtesy begins in the heart. Peter tells us to have “compassion for one another”. This simply means to “feel together” in a mutual way.
Do you have feelings when you hear of pain in a brother’s life? If so, what do you feel? In church I hear often of the pains and difficulties of others — and I fear it is way too easy to become “numb” to the hurts of others.