“HELLO! How are you today?”
No doubt you have often used a greeting such as that. You may even have accompanied your greeting with a handshake or a hug. Customs and words used may differ from place to place, but the basics of a greeting are much the same. In fact, not offering or responding to a greeting may be taken as unloving or as evidence of bad manners.
But not all people are inclined to greet others. Some hesitate to extend a greeting out of shyness or low self-worth. Some find it difficult to greet others who are of a different race, culture, or social standing. However, even a brief greeting can have very positive effects.
Ask yourself: ‘What can a greeting accomplish? And what can God’s Word teach me about greetings?’
GREET “MEN OF ALL SORTS”
When the apostle Peter welcomed the first Gentile, Cornelius, into the Christian congregation, he said: “God is not partial.” (Acts 10:34) Later, Peter wrote that God “desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) We might initially associate those texts with a person who is learning the truth. But Peter also exhorted Christians: “Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers.” (1 Pet. 2:17) Would it not, then, be good for us to greet others irrespective of their race, culture, or background? That would be part of showing them honor and love.
The apostle Paul urged those in the congregation: “Welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed you.” (Rom. 15:7) Paul took special note of brothers who had proved to be “a strengthening aid” to him. How much more so do brothers and sisters today need strengthening as we face Satan’s intense attack against God’s people.—Col. 4:11, ftn.; Rev. 12:12, 17.
Scriptural examples show that greetings can do more than make others feel welcome.
REASSURANCE, ENCOURAGEMENT, LOVE
When it came time for the Son of God to have his life transferred to the womb of Mary, Jehovah sent an angel to speak to her. “Greetings, you highly favored one,” the angel began, “Jehovah is with you.” Mary was “deeply disturbed,” uncertain why an angel was speaking to her. Seeing this, the angel said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” He explained that it was God’s purpose for her to give birth to the Messiah. Rather than remain disturbed, Mary obediently replied: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it happen to me according to your declaration.”—Luke 1:26-38.
It was a privilege for the angel to act as Jehovah’s messenger; yet, he did not consider it beneath him to address an imperfect human. He started off with a greeting. Can we learn from that example? We should be ready to greet others and encourage them. With just a few words, we can help others and give them confidence that they are really a part of Jehovah’s people.
Paul came to know many in congregations throughout Asia Minor and Europe. His letters contain many specific greetings. We see this from Romans chapter 16. Paul sent greetings to many fellow Christians. He mentioned Phoebe, “our sister,” and urged the brothers to “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the holy ones and give her whatever help she may need.” Paul greeted Prisca and Aquila, “to whom not only I but also all the congregations of the nations give thanks.” He greeted some who are essentially unknown today—“my beloved Epaenetus” as well as “Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who are working hard in the Lord.” Yes, Paul readily greeted his brothers and sisters.—Rom. 16:1-16.
Imagine the joy it brought them to know that they were remembered fondly. How their love for Paul and one another must have deepened! And hearing those loving greetings surely encouraged other Christians, helping them to remain firm in the faith. Yes, greetings that express genuine personal interest and commendation fortify friendships and unite loyal servants of God.
When Paul landed at the port of Puteoli and headed up toward Rome, local Christians came south to meet him. Upon seeing them from a distance, Paul “thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:13-15) At times, we may be able only to smile or wave as a greeting. Yet, even that can uplift a person, perhaps one who is depressed or sad.
A COMMON GROUND
The disciple James needed to give strong counsel. Some Christians were becoming spiritual adulteresses by having friendship with the world. (Jas. 4:4) But take note of how James began his letter:
“James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes that are scattered about: Greetings!” (Jas. 1:1) His readers no doubt found it easier to accept his advice when they saw from his greeting that they had the same standing before God. Yes, a humble greeting can open the way even for a discussion of serious matters.
A truly effective greeting, however short, should be sincere and reflect genuine love. That is so even if it seems to go unnoticed. (Matt. 22:39) A sister in Ireland once arrived at the Kingdom Hall just as the meeting was about to start. As she hurried in, one brother turned, smiled, and said: “Hello. It’s really good to see you.” The sister simply took her seat.
A few weeks later, she approached the brother and mentioned that for some time she had been coping with a distressing situation at home. “I felt so upset that evening,” she said, “that I almost did not come to the Kingdom Hall. I cannot remember much of the meeting, except your greeting. It made me feel really welcome. Thank you.”
That brother had been unaware of the powerful effect of his brief greeting. “When she told me what those few words meant to her,” he observes, “I was so glad I made the effort. It made me feel good too.”
Solomon wrote: “Cast your bread on the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” (Eccl. 11:1) By being conscious of the value of our greetings, especially to fellow Christians, we enrich others as well as ourselves. So let us never underestimate the power of a greeting.