President Trump claimed that he would know within the first five seconds if his meeting with Kim Jong-un was going to be successful. The first five seconds of any interaction can make a huge difference to that encounter and potentially to our whole relationship with that person. Indeed, it could make or break their day.

Though just a small part of our everyday life, God has been challenging me to appreciate the importance of “greeting one another” and to work on doing it well. First impressions are so important.

I was in a shop recently when the attendant asked me quite genuinely about how my day was going so far. Though I had never ever met this person before, I felt an instant and real sense of acceptance and connection. I ended up buying quite a few items and leaving as a very satisfied customer, most likely to return.

Bunnings have worked this out and have seen the value of a good greeting by employing people to do just that with every person who walks into their store.

If anyone should be good at greeting others well it should be Christians. On five occasions, the Bible instructs us to “greet one another”. Check out the passage in Romans 16:1-16, where Paul lists a large number of people he wishes to personally greet in the church at Rome. He concludes with the call to “greet one another with a holy kiss”, which means to greet with Godly affection as brothers and sisters in the Lord. I like to think of it as “the Christ in me greeting the Christ in you”.

I would like to share a few thoughts on this matter using an acrostic on the word “greet” to help encourage you to develop this important practice.

God greets us
One big difference between Christianity and other religions is that God reaches down to us, we don’t have to try and earn our way up to him. He came into the world as a person to dwell among us and to reach out to us personally.

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most beautiful pictures of God. Luke 15:20 says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Jesus was observed to be such an amazing greeter that he gained a reputation for hanging with all kinds of people: he invited the crook Zacchaeus down from a tree to share a meal, he offered the ostracized Samaritan woman living water when she came to the well, he welcomed little children and placed his hands on them, he looked at the man who could not give up his riches and loved him, he spoke the comforting and hope-reviving words “Mary, Mary” after his resurrection and he greeted his distraught disciples with “peace be with you”, just to cite a few recorded examples.

God is always waiting to greet us and accept us totally. That’s a great starting point for our motivation and example in greeting others.

Repent from our sin
By nature, we are more concerned about ourselves than others. It is important to recognise and repent from this self-centred default tendency which breeds prejudice, unforgiveness and fear, so that we are free to greet others with genuine desire.

Express our desire in prayer
One of the prayers that I believe God will always answer is the one which asks him to give us opportunities to share his love.

At the start of each day, pray that God will lead you in your conversations with other people, so that you will have the right words to bring hope and healing into their lives. The Psalmist prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight” (Ps 19:14).

Extend your interests to include others
Philippians 2:4 says, “…do not look to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”. This means taking the time and intentionality to know their heart and be sensitive to their needs, with the goal to show that we care about how that person is really travelling. Don’t just ask how people are going, ask with sincerity how they are really going. Find out what is important to them and let that be your agenda.

Touch appropriately
A good greeting isn’t just in what we say, but also very much in our body language and actions. There are quite a number of different ways to say “hello”. I loved the way that one of our recent staff members used to always smile when he spoke to others. His goal is to go through life “throwing smiles” at people. I also loved hearing another staff member recently describe how it takes her much longer to mark her roll in the morning because she deliberately makes eye contact with each student to communicate personal care for them at the start of their day. Not all people are comfortable with hugs, but most will respond very well to a welcoming handshake or a touch on the shoulder or arm when done warmly and appropriately. When we do so, we become God with skin on.

I believe that the way we greet people says much about ourselves.  I trust that this reflection will encourage us all to be more conscious of how this minor area in life can make a big difference to others as well as our own development as people who seek to love sincerely and reflect our Lord.

Good greeting!

Mr Alan Feeney / Deputy Principal