My Uncle became a Christian but decided to attend one of the larger churches in my home town. He intellectually assented to the idea that Jesus was a real person who had died for his sin; He knew that attending church is not just something extra for over-achievers; He wanted his wife and himself to hear teaching regularly. However, he didn’t want to socialize. He didn’t want to get together with other people. He wanted his faith to be a private, personal thing. You could say he was an introvert and so this was no big deal. Of course, being an introvert is no sin. However, introverts have to force themselves into relationships. This is particularly important when it comes to mental and spiritual health. Those who are not connected often wither on the vine. They are less able to work as a team player. The faith was not designed to be a privatized, internal affair.
In contrast, the apostle Paul had many connections which he made on his travels and he invested in the people whose lives he touched. He was transparent about his thoughts, fears, and desires for them. He was grateful for their work in the gospel. Paul’s primary relationship was with Jesus. The measure of his other relationships was how they centered on the gospel and whether they were growing in knowledge and depth of insight with Christ.
‘Greet’is repeated many times in the passage below. Many churches have a time at the beginning, during, or after their service where people say a quick ‘hello.’ There is nothing wrong with that. What is lacking, though, is any real relational connection. In an age when regular church attendance is considered twice in a month, standards of connection are slipping. Facebook or other social media helps us to manage our social interactions – but they lack the tears and trauma of real life-long friendships. People can escape when hurts need to be addressed. Greeting people with whom we have laboured is less common, because less people labour with or for the church and more expect a consumer Christianity. Our churches are looking a feeling more like Selfridges and less like a place where real commitment is expected.
Over the summer I have had the honour of sitting down with young men in their twenties. Each one of them has connected with me in ways that I did not anticipate. When I come to camp for my weekly visit they rise with a smile and throw their arms around me and give me a hug. Several of them have wept with me. All of them have served with me. This kind of connection should not be just what we offer at camp. We must make time on our schedule to eat with our brothers and sisters in the church, to talk about hard things in transparent and vulnerable ways, and do the work of the gospel side by side. Then, when we are not together, we should pass on greetings.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.