Caring about and acknowledging others impacts joy, health, and even the effective spreading of the gospel.
John said in III John 1:14 to salute and greet Christian friends by name. The Greek word used for salute and greet was originally described this way. When you see your brothers and sisters in Christ, you are to warmly receive them, fold them in your arms, embrace them, and receive joyfully. The word is used over 60 times in the Bible.
The University of Wroclaw, Poland, researched the subject of “emotional touch” in 2021. The research gave insight into the pandemic’s impact on the health and well-being of others. The study involved 14,000 people from 45 different countries. While different cultures have different ways of greeting, acknowledging, and showing affection toward one another, the focus was on “emotional touch.” In other words, the act of communicating genuine love and care. While people from different cultures greet one another in different ways, the fact that being surrounded by people who genuinely care about you has many positive benefits such as lower stress levels, a higher level of happiness with life, and even better health. The study showed that older people who are hugged often versus those rarely hugged have significantly better health.
Churches are shrinking. Many people claim the church is shrinking because people just aren’t interested in church anymore. I’d like to suggest a different perspective. Maybe the problem isn’t that people aren’t interested in the church anymore; perhaps it’s that the church isn’t as interested in people anymore.
If you do this one thing, show genuine interest in others, you will not be able to keep people from coming back to your church. And you will not have to worry about people coming back to you to learn more about how Jesus has changed your life. They will come back with intriguing questions and a desire to know what makes you so different.
So when the Bible says things like greet the brethren with a holy kiss, don’t get freaked out about that! You don’t have to do THAT, but there is something vital and even Biblical about the way we choose to care about one another. Learn to be better at friendship, look people in the eye, speak, listen, show interest, and care about others. Jesus kept it pretty simple when He said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and love people with all your heart.
When the Bible tells us to “greet” or “salute” one another, it isn’t something we should overlook. People everywhere are looking for authentic connections with others who genuinely care. After searching the Bible and reading each place the word is used, I found a pattern that shows a variety of ways we can become better at putting this into practice. In place of the word “greet” or “salute,” I will use the word acknowledge to describe how we can impact those around us. Here are the ways scripture instructs us to acknowledge others.
- Acknowledge Jesus
And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. Mark 9:15. The most important person you will ever acknowledge in life is the person of Jesus Christ. Make it a priority each day to listen to Him, talk to Him and allow Him to be your master teacher in all things.
- A Single Acknowledgment by an Individual
Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. 3rd John 1:14. When you as an individual pause to acknowledge another person, by name, you are showing more than just friendliness, you are proving to a hurting world that each person matters to God and each person matters to you. Of the 60+ times the word is used in scripture, this is the way it is used most often. An individual person acknowledging another person speaks volumes about the love of Christ that is in us.
A few years ago, my wife and I visited a church in Tennessee to hear a young youth evangelist preach who grew up under our ministry. When we walked up to the church entrance, a small neighborhood dog was waiting at the door and excited to see us. We petted the dog, and after the service ended, we stood around for several minutes thinking we might meet people. People looked at us talked to their own friends and family, but no one spoke to us. We made our way to the parking lot, and on our way to the car, we looked at people everywhere, expecting someone might speak to us. No one did. After we got in our car and closed the doors, we realized something ironic. The only person who cared about us was the dog. Unfortunately, people walk in and out of churches every week without ever being acknowledged.
- A Group Acknowledgment by a Friend or Family
All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Titus 3:15. To communicate that you and your friends or you and your family acknowledge a person says that it’s not just me, but my whole tribe thinks you matter, you are important, and you are cared about. When you realize not every person has a strong, loving family, and you choose to link a friend into your extended family, you give a priceless gift to a lonely person.
- A Corporate Acknowledgement by a Faith Family
Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Philippians 4:21-23. The message of care can come from a higher level. The message is that our entire church family cares for you; we pray for you and are here for your spiritual needs. Even though a person has a friend at church, they need to know the church as a body cares.
- A Goodbye Acknowledgement as People Come and Go
Acknowledgments send a subtle message at two significant moments. To acknowledge a person when you meet and when you leave sends a much more authentic message of care. Everyone has experienced the odd moment when a person “just left without saying goodbye.” The extra care at both ends of a connection are important and mentioned in scripture.
- A Generous Non-Exclusive Acknowledgement
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Matthew 5:47. One of the greatest pains people have with the current church culture is the experience people have with believers clustering together and creating insiders and outsiders around the worship experience. Only acknowledging your own friends, your own relatives, your own neighbors, people who are only in your small group or Sunday school, from your own area of town, those with students in your own school, or even those of your own economic status or race, are all ways we divide ourselves. But as the Bible says… how does that make us different because even the unsaved world does that?
I read a story years ago about missionaries who visited an orphanage in the former Soviet Union. When they were taken into the room where the babies were kept, they saw a room full of cribs but noticed the only sounds they heard were the squeaks of the cribs as the babies moved around. The missionaries asked why none of the babies were crying. The staff explained that while all babies cry sometimes, the babies in the orphanage learn that when they cry and no one comes, there is no reason to cry. Our world is full of people who still need God’s love and need to hear the gospel’s message. It may seem that they aren’t interested but don’t let that fool you. They just need to know that someone cares.