For what purpose do you greet others? When you shake their hands or say, “hello,” what’s the reason behind the greeting? Most of the time it’s driven by politeness out of common courtesy toward the one you make eye contact with. But when we say, “How are you?” in that casual form, are we really ready to listen to what they’re going to respond with? Secretly I’m always hoping that they say, “Great! Yourself?” It means I don’t have to stand and ask, “Why? What’s going on?” toward a negative or “so-so” response.
Right now I’ve begun 2 Timothy. For the first time ever a greeting at the beginning of a letter caught my attention. In order to understand the rest of the book it’s necessary to understand Paul’s greeting. I’ve found that he hides the overall scope and topic of the letter in his greetings to churches and individuals.
First off, let me begin with a thought that has always bothered me. This could be considered a rant, but I prefer not to think of it that way.
There have been many believers, including myself, who’ve begun relationships with an agenda of “winning” the other to Christ. Unfortunately, what might happen is that if we’re unsuccessful, we’ll leave them and move on to the next person who might say “yes” to Jesus. After they accept Him, we’ll even leave them and move on to the next! This has undoubtedly left a bad taste in unbelievers’ mouths being left with the thought that they are nothing more than a project. They truly are looking for relationship just like anyone else who desires to have a friend. Believers, we need to be bigger than this!
But the one thing that bothers me is what’s happened in all this. Now we’ve been labeled as a people with a “hidden agenda.” What’s up with that? Why’s is “hidden” in the first place? Why are we ashamed to bring it up from the very beginning? The fact that we’ve been saved by Christ is not something to be “hidden” in our lives but lived out. Freedom from sin and God’s wrath because of the cross should give us reason to celebrate and tell the world of this awesome gift He’s given us! “Hidden with Christ in God” doesn’t mean that we are to hide, but to shine brightly the Light and Life we’ve been given!
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus” ~2 Timothy 1:1 (NIV)
Did you catch it? This is exciting…Paul’s whole reason for writing this letter to Timothy is because of the promise of life in Jesus! There is no hidden agenda, but it’s labeled from the very beginning, proudly announcing and declaring in humility that he is not ashamed, not hiding the fact that his calling and his teaching is because of the promise of life! Such thankfulness!
Later in chapter 1, Paul charges Timothy that he should not be ashamed of the testimony of Christ, although preaching that God came to earth as a man to die on a cross and then to rise from the dead to save us from our sins seems like a very unrealistic idea, but to take pride in the Message of Jesus! For those of us who believe, there is no reason to be ashamed because “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love, and discipline.”
And here’s the humility side of it, the awesome truth of it all: God “saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Timothy 1:9). There’s nothing about us in the whole thing other than we get to experience firsthand the grace and love of God!
So, when we greet people, when we develop relationships, is the “agenda” hidden? Or are the motives of our greeting grounded in the realization of the promise of life? Our purpose is because we’ve been saved! Our motive is because we’ve been smothered in God’s grace and love, and we’re thankful!
I’m convinced every relationship we have is another opportunity share God’s love. Any relationship without the purpose of the promise of life is superficial and will only go as deep as the surface response: “Great! Yourself?” We need to come to grips with the fact that Christ is intrusive. He wants it all. He’s given everything. And the connection we share because of Christ needs to draw us deeper, more together, and display truth brightly to the world. Can we do this all the time? Probably not. But the next time we greet someone, maybe we could be genuine about it. And if we’re unwilling to go there, maybe we should revisit our commitment to following Christ. Remember, there was not one person He greeted that He didn’t genuinely love.
Thanks be to God for His grace! May Your love and grace drive my motivation in relationship building and greeting new people! May the promise of life in the present and eternal reside in Christ in my life.