Do Not Greet Some People
In last week’s sermon (10/25), I reasoned, based upon Phil 4:21, that we should be kind in our speech and body language towards our fellow Christians. In a sermon, though, sometimes the preacher cannot say everything that is relevant to the topic. Sometimes he must cut out relevant material. This was the case last week. There is a nuance to Phil 4:21 that I did not mention. The nuance is this: sometimes we shouldn’t greet others. Let me explain.
Paul writes this in Rom 16:16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Verse 16 is not a verse you should apply during this pandemic!) The point of v. 16 is the same point of Phil 4:21—greet other Christians. Notice, though, what Paul says in the very next verse, Rom 16:17: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Paul calls us to “avoid” those who sow division and who teach false doctrine. What does that mean? It means that, after sober and careful consideration, sometimes you should give those who sow division and teach false doctrine a cold shoulder. Your posture should be to warn them, not to encourage or embrace their behavior. When necessary, we make it clear—through speech and body language—that divisiveness and false teaching is not tolerated in the church.
“There is a time for everything,” Ecclesiastes 3:1 reads. Most of the time, Christians express their love by “greeting one another.” Other times, according to Rom 16:17, Christians express their love by giving some people a cold shoulder. The hope is that, by means of their cold speech and body language, Christians will turn those who have strayed from Christ back to Him (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20).