Archive for March 16, 2009
The other day, I received a phone call from a buddy of mine, asking me some questions about the Scriptural account of creation. After chatting about everything from theistic evolution to Augustine’s interpretation of the creation account to the length of the “days” in Genesis 1, all of which are very heavily and hotly contested, we ended on a much lighter note. “Say hi to your wife for me,” my buddy said. “You say hi to your wife too,” I replied. And that’s how our phone call ended.
My buddy and I have been friends now for over ten years. We went to college together and, as fate would have it, our wives, who attended the same college as we did, even roomed together. Hence, the extended greetings that we pass along to our respective spouses. But now, with both of us living in different towns and with all of the different duties and obligations that naturally come with adult life, we don’t get to see each other very often. Our once close relationship is now a little more distant. So, greetings to and from each other often come second-hand. When our wives talk, just like when we talk, I usually get from Melody an extended greeting from my friend.
As Paul wraps up his letter to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13, we find an extended greeting of sorts that comes through Paul to the Corinthians: “All the saints send their greetings” (verse 13). In a day before phone calls, emails, instant messaging, and Facebook, this is often the best that old friends could hope to receive: a second hand greeting via a traveling missionary. No doubt, many of “all the saints” who are saying hello through the pen of Paul were personally known to the Corinthians at one time or another. But then, just like today, these saints moved to different towns and different places and began different lives. Perhaps because of a job opportunity. Perhaps because of a missionary call. Perhaps even because of persecution. And those once close relationships are now a little more distant.
Interestingly, right before Paul passes along greetings from those who are afar, he encourages the Corinthians to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (verse 12). The “holy kiss,” of course, was no romantic gesture, but was a long standing Jewish tradition denoting fraternal affection. Indeed, the very word for “kiss” in Greek hints at this: philema, from the word phileo, meaning “brotherly love.” The purpose of this “holy kiss,” therefore, was not to opportunistically create love while standing under some bit of mistletoe, but rather, to demonstrate deep affection and thankfulness for the blessing of having someone near enough that you could actually kiss them. For in that day, as in ours, you never knew when a holy kiss would melt into a much more impersonal, “The saints send their greetings.”
This, then, is a lesson for us. For time and circumstance have a way of separating us from those who are now near enough to kiss. Close friends move away. Kids grow up and leave the house. And yes, even spouses die. And we are left with much more impersonal second hand greetings that come to us through others or through emails or through cards during the holidays. In some instances, we are even left with only our memories. So today, don’t miss out on your opportunity. For today’s opportunity is a holy opportunity! Give a peck on the cheek to those you love. After all, Scripture commands it. And I have every intention of obeying. I think Melody’s in the kitchen right now…