14th December 2023
Read (Romans 16v16)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
In Northern Ireland we are a fairly buttoned up kind of people. We might offer one another a firm handshake or a solid pat on the back but we draw a clear line in the sand at anything which goes beyond straight laced conduct. I once knew a man who didn't even appreciate handshakes and so you can imagine his disgust when one Christmas he was grabbed and hugged by a zealous older lady in his congregation. She was letting him know that she loved and appreciated him but my friend turned bright red and could barely speak due to the shock of his ordeal.
Such a man would have hated Rome. After Paul's list of greetings to numerous families, individuals and churches he urged his brothers and sisters to greet one another with a holy kiss (v16). This greeting would not have been out of place in Paul's day and he urged such an approach here and in three other places (1 Corinthians 16v20, 2 Corinthians 13v12 & 1 Thessalonians 5v26). What did a holy kiss look like? It was a kiss of sincere love and fellowship. It was a sign of mutual affection and joy. It had no sexual undertones but was holy, pure and in response to the Gospel.
Now, with that said, will we be kissing all round us on Sunday morning? No. In our culture such an expression of love is not common and not considered appropriate. It is certainly different in other parts of the world but in Northern Ireland we are not the holy kissing kind. Even so, we should heed the exhortation of the Apostle. We may be a fairly stiff kind of people but we should still greet one another with affection and joy.
What is the point? Sometimes Mrs. Woodburn rightly chastises me. She comes home from work and I barely lift my eyes to look at her, I don't listen to her account of her day and ignorantly I give the impression that I can't really be bothered. Such reactions are shameful and not to be recommended in marriage or church.
When we lovingly greet a brother or sister in the Lord we are saying "This is my fellow Christian! This is a child of God! This is one for whom Christ died! Jesus loves this person and I love this person! Dear brother in Christ I welcome you!" We may never feel comfortable kissing our fellow Christians on the cheek but surely we can greet each other in a way that rightly honours the command of Scripture?
The church is bigger than we can imagine and remarkably we have more in common with Christians in the Sudan than we do with the pagans down the street. All the churches sent greetings to Rome (v16b) and Christians everywhere were to greet one another with Christ honouring affection. Brothers and sisters, with lips or without, greet one another with a holy kiss.
Q15 What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created? The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.