Daily Devotions

Pucker Up

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“Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.” (1 Thessalonians 5:26)

 

I remember when our daughter Hannah was in 8th grade. She had a boyfriend, Matt, whom she invited to church for the first time. If you are going to date my daughter, you are going to have to be tough, with a good sense of humor. First, I made him stand and introduced him to the whole congregation. Then, I asked all the women to make him feel at home by “Greeting him with a holy kiss!” Matt was a good sport, so I let him continue to date our daughter. And I took the wrath of dozens of mainly mothers who said, “You were way too mean to that poor young man.” I replied, “Malarkey, if he can’t take it, I don’t want him around my daughter.” Oh, you should have seen the righteous indignation of their part. Meanwhile, there was a group of dads’ of young daughters, standing off to one side, giving me a big thumbs up!

 

According to the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, “In the New Testament the kiss is a greeting exchanged between Christians (see Acts 20:37; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14). I better be careful how much I tell you, or the extroverts in the congregation will start requesting we kiss instead of shaking hands during the “Passing of the Peace!” I believe the ancient Christians kissed rather than shook hands, offered a fist bump, or the always uncomfortable bro-hug, to symbolically and physically express an intimacy usually reserved for immediate family.

 

The Apostle Paul was attempting to bond with the congregational members at the Church in Thessalonica. Paul knew that if he did not have a deeply personal relationship with the people there, they would not bond with him and therefore, not internalize his message of God’s good news. If we, in the church, do not have an intimate, familial bond with each other, we will not be as supportive and loving as needed to support each other in our walks of faith.

 

Today, think about the people with whom you feel the most intimacy, and who you would feel comfortable sharing a kiss - like you might with a parent or sibling. Is there anyone outside your immediate family where you feel that kind of intimacy? Is there anyone at the church you are that close to that you could share a familial kiss? Is that only because of contemporary social mores, or is it also due to a lack of social and spiritual intimacy in the church? If so, rather than blame the church for not having people for whom you can feel a sense of closeness, spend some time developing deeper relationships in your church home. The deeper our spiritual relationships, the more fulfilling our church experience, and the more meaningful our relationship with God becomes. Take a risk in reaching out to others, but may I recommend you start with a hearty handshake!

Room for Hitler, Room for Us

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“The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgment, while the sins of others follow them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24-25)

 

My first response to this passage is not appropriate. My first thought was that this is a passage that affirms that good works are a means to earning eternal life. But other parts of Scripture confirm that this idea is not an appropriate understanding. Salvation is only by God’s grace, and not through our human effort. If our works were required for salvation, not even the best of us is worthy of God’s kingdom.

 

I’ve said before that I believe all people will enter into God’s heavenly kingdom, but that doesn’t mean I do not believe in God’s judgment day. I believe there will be a judgment day. People’s sins will “follow them there.” On the day of judgment, God will replay our lives, and our sins will be replayed for us. Likewise, on that day, our “good works” will be “conspicuous” and “cannot remain hidden,” but will be shown to us as well. This judgment day process is not expressed to determine whether one is worthy of entrance into the kingdom, but to show each one of us the amount of grace God gave us in order to save us.

 

Mother Teresa will cry over her few sins, and will celebrate with God the many joyous moments in life where she represented Christ in the world. God will forgive her sins, heal her pain, accept her cry for forgiveness and walk through the pearly gates eternally grateful for God’s grace and love.

 

Adolph Hitler, on the day of judgment will likewise, cry over his voluminous sins. This list of sins could take lifetimes to complete. When Hitler’s own life of pain, hatred and despair are pointed out to him in detail, God will show him his few joyous moments in life. Then, like Mother Teresa, “God will forgive his sins, heal his pain, accept his cry for forgiveness and walk through the pearly gates eternally grateful for God’s grace and love.” When Hitler crosses those heavenly gates, he will be devastated by the waste he made of his life, and worse, the devastating destruction he delivered on so many others. No one would want to experience Hitler’s judgment day. But experiencing God’s glory, his own sin, and God’s loving grace, he enters God’s kingdom restored with an infinite amount of gratitude. Even Hitler would fall on his face, crying for forgiveness in the presence of God’s radiant, pure, holiness.

 

Today, think about what your judgment day will look like thus far, in your own life. Don’t just think about the sins and shortcomings, but also the joyous moments. Remember that none of us are perfect or worthy. Then, offer a prayer of thanksgiving, on your knees (if you are able), to the God who loves you so much that forgiveness and grace are yours for the taking. You and I are not Mother Teresa, nor are we Adolph Hitler. We need not fear the judgment day, but continue living our lives trying to honor God in all we say and do. But live as saved people who can celebrate the day we will enter through the pearly gates.

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