We deceive ourselves when we conclude that being God's family is more difficult today than it was in the first century. We are deluded when we conclude that it was simple to be a congregation in Jesus' Palestine or Paul's Roman empire. When slaves and their owners were God's family in a first century congregation, it must have been incredibly complicated! Can you imagine working in a slave-master relationship at home and a brother-brother relationship in God's family? How awkward!

Devout Jews did not socially associate with non-Jews. They commonly had little or no respect for non-Jews who worshipped idols. "Can you believe those people! They call a carved piece of wood or stone 'god'? How ignorant!" Then, suddenly, a converted Jew found himself brother to a converted idolater--only because they both were in Christ. How awkward!

Non-Jews commonly had little respect for Jews. The non-Jews experienced rejection and discrimination for generations. "Those prejudiced, arrogant people! My money is always good, but I never am! They have absolutely no respect for us! They hold us in contempt!" Then, suddenly, a converted idolater found himself brother to a converted Jew--only because they both were in Christ. How awkward!

Those are three obvious difficulties. They clearly illustrate the urgency of an admonition repeatedly made to Christians. To the Christians in cosmopolitan Rome: "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Romans 16:16). Twice to the Christians in decadent, sensuous Corinth: "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (1 Corinthians 16:20 and 2 Corinthians 13:12). To the Christians in wealthy Thessalonica: "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss" (1 Thessalonians 5:26). To the Christians scattered throughout five provinces of the Roman empire: "Greet one another with a kiss of peace" (1 Peter 5:14).

They were urged to recognize the fact that they were family. Being in Christ made them family. They were to greet each other as family, and they were to physically express their family bond. "Greet each other warmly, genuinely, and sincerely."

Greeting each other warmly, genuinely, and sincerely is no less important today. Because we are in Christ, we are family. That is the reality of our relationship, not a theological technicality. God through Christ made us family. We must build living bonds in that family.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 March 1997

 Link to next article

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell