Kiss One Another

pexel kissDid you know that there are about 59 one another statements in the New Testament that specifically deal with how we are to be in relationship with each other?

Some of the verses overlap so that there are more than one verse about the same instruction.  15 of the 59 verses specifically talk about how we are to love one another.  That is the most talked about one another topic.  The next two most referenced one another instructions are tied with 4 each.  One of them is to encourage one another and the other is the instruction is to kiss one another.

In 2 Corinthians 13 we read: 11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (2 Cor. 13:11-14 ESV)

In these verses Paul instructs the church to greet one another with a holy kiss.  That instruction is mentioned four separate times in the New Testament making it one of the top three most talked about instructions among the one another passages.  We find it mentioned in Romans 16, I Corinthians 16, and I Peter 5 as well as here.

Paul actually gives us several instructions in this passage about how we are to relate to one another.   He is probably summing up what he has said in this letter with a few perfunctory statements about how they were to live.

He tells them to rejoice, to be restored, to comfort one another, to agree with one another and to live in peace.  Overall there seems to be a common theme of unity that is to exemplify the way they treat one another.

And then he tells them to greet one another with a holy kiss.  Apparently the early church used that method to greet one another.  In the ancient world this was not uncommon and actually today in many societies it continues to be a tradition.  However, in the early church it appears that the kiss was meant to signify the special union that they had with one another in Christ as part of one family.  Notice it is a holy kiss.  It was not meant in a sexual way at all.  It is devoid of that kind of emotional desire or intent.  It is a different kind of kiss that symbolizes the unity and intimacy that they have with one another in the Lord.

So is this something we should do?  I am not suggesting that we should start this practice, but when I read this and picture the early church greeting one another the image I have is of a church that was excited and happy to see one another.  I picture a church that was so invested in one another’s lives that they were like family.  I picture a church that had gone deeper into an intimate relationship with one another than we would typically consider with the church in our society today.  I picture a church that truly loved and cared for each other.  I picture a church that had authentic, real relationships with one another.

So while I might not be that interested in beginning a tradition of kissing one another, I do like that intimate family like picture of the church.  I like the depth of intimacy I see in this passage.  And I would love to see that at The River.  That is my challenge for us as a church family.

What if this Thing Starts Beeping?

So I stopped by the library today and while I was checking out my items in the self-checkout line, I thought about something that I often think about when I am at the library, “What if this thing starts beeping and won’t let me check out any more items because I have already used up all I can have?” 

You see, I use the libary a lot.  Since I don’t have an office, the library is one of the places where I like to do my work.  And the library is also a place that I like to visit on my day off.  I just like to spend time at the library.  And I also like to make liberal use of the resource materials.  I am always checking things out.  I check out books, magazines, audiobooks and videos.  I check out things for myself as well as things that I think Julie or one of the kids might like.  Because of that, I often have a whole bunch of library materials lying around at home. 

So I was standing there checking out 3 magazines and a video and this thought was going through my mind, “What if this thing starts beeping and won’t let me check out any more items because I have already used up all I can have?”  You see I already had at least 3 books, 4 magazines, and 3 audio books from the library sitting at various places in my home.  That means that with this next group of items, I would have 14 items out at one time.  And that is not abnormal.  I have been here less than a year, and I imagine that I have probably checked out over 200 items already.

But one of the really great things about the library is that no matter how much you check out, you can still check out more.  And that is pretty cool.  And while I am sitting there thinking about all of that, I find myself thinking about God and how amazing it is that no matter how many times I have had to rely on His love and grace, He is always ready with more the next time.  I never have to worry that if I go to my knees in prayer asking for God’s love and grace to prevail that something is going to start beeping and I am going to get a message that I have already used up all the love and grace and that is all I can have.

Who would have ever thought that the library would provide me with such a great reminder of God’s unending love and grace?

Have You Any Right To Be Angry?

Yesterday in church we talked about letting go of those things that happen in our lives that cause us to become bitter, angry and hard people.  And to instead become kind, loving and forgiving.  Well, today in my devotions I found myself in the book of Jonah.  This was a very fitting place to be the day after that message.
You see, the story of Jonah contains a great lesson for us about God’s compassion and man’s anger and bitterness.   Why did Jonah run away when God called him to go to Nineveh?  Well, we don’t really find that answer until the end of the book.  But before we get there, let me remind us of the story.  Jonah was a prophet of God and God told him to go to Nineveh to preach against it.  But Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, so he went in the other direction and boarded a ship for Tarshish.  But God would not let Jonah get away.  He sent a storm that stopped the ship and threatened to sink it, but when the sailors realized that Jonah was the reason for the storm they through him overboard.  Then God had a big fish come along and swallow Jonah whole and while he was in the fish, Jonah prayed and repented and told God that he would obey.  And so God had the fish vomit Jonah onto the dry land.  And Jonah did obey and go to Nineveh and preached there.  And the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s message and repented of their sins and God spared their city.  Then in chapter 4 we find out why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place.  In Jonah 4:1-3 we read, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at hom?  That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'”

Isn’t that sad?  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, and actually ran away from God, simply because he knew that if he went to Nineveh and preached that the people would repent and God would have compassion on them and not destroy their city.  And Jonah didn’t like that because he wanted God to destroy Nineveh.  Nineveh was a bad city and they had caused much pain on Jonah’s people, and Jonah was bitter about that.  And so he didn’t want to see them spared.  He had no compassion for them.  He wanted them destroyed.  And so he tried to run away, but he eventually obeyed God and after the people responded and God spared the city, Jonah was angry.

But notice what God says in verse 4, “But the Lord replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?'”  That is a great question for us.  Do we have any right to be angry?  Do we have any cause to be bitter?  We look upon those who have harmed us with bitterness, and scorn, but God loves them.  He hates their sin, but He loves them.  We need to be willing to let go of the things that happen to us and move on with our lives. 

Holding on to things, becoming bitter and staying angry is easy.  It is much harder to forgive, to be kind and to have compassion.  But God calls us to those things.  We need to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice.  And we need to be kind, compassionate and forgiving.  We need to let God’s love for us overflow in our lives so that we too will love others.