By Laura Bailey, Crosswalk.com
The Biblical Purpose of Holy Greetings
By Laura Bailey
"Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance." Jude 1:2
A friend jokingly commented that she bet the post office knew me by my first name. She referred to my tendency to send a letter through snail mail, and her words touched my heart. I began thinking about times I'd spent hours picking out a special gift, laboring over each written word, and carefully selecting stationary and stamps to make someone feel special. Instead, the only communication I was engaging in recently was firing off a quick text, liking a post, or delivering a distracted "How are you?" between tasks.
Recently, I began studying the letters in the New Testament. As society is flirting with the complete abandonment of handwritten letters, I am fascinated with these ancient notes that compile much of the second half of the Bible. I've wondered if churches today would have taken encouragement and reprimands to heart if delivered as "you've got mail" over a handwritten note. On the other hand, there's something about holding a piece of paper, studying the author's script, and the ability to read the words repeatedly that electronic delivery can't compete with. Of course, letters were one of the primary sources of communication during Bible times. Specifically, with the New Testament writings, letters were meant to be read and then shared with other churches. In my studying, I began noticing the greetings of these ancient writings.
A standard greeting in many of these ancient letters revealed the writer's relationship and emotionally engaged his audience. Jude 1:1-2 is an excellent example of this: "Jude, a servant of Christ and a brother of James (half brother of Jesus), To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance." In just a few sentences, we learn that Jude announced his commitment to serving Jesus and sharing the Gospel, the brother of James, and points to the work of the Trinity in his life.
He is writing to believers and sharing his desire for them to experience an abundance of Christ's mercy, peace, and love. We will later learn that Jude's purpose in writing was to rebuke false teachers and reinforce the gospel message. With this knowledge, we better understand why Jude felt compelled to encourage believers with mercy, peace, and love within the first couple of lines. They would need to learn about God's mercy, cling to His peace, remember Christ's love as they fought spiritual attacks, and deal with false teachers. Christians and non-Christians use these terms, but what do they mean in a biblical sense?
- Mercy is offering forgiveness, granting a pardon, and showing compassion even though it is not merited. We extend understanding to others like God extended mercy to us by sending Jesus to take the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8-10).
- Peace comes from knowing this world is temporary; our circumstances don't determine our attitude or mental state. We live with the peace that passes understanding, which can only be from a relationship with Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6).
- Love is not conditional; it is selfless and values others over oneself. God even commands that this type of love is displayed to our enemies. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
As I considered my recent interactions over the past week, the Holy Spirit has gently nudged me to be more intentional with the words that I speak and the phrases that I type. What if we encouraged the body of believers with a holy greeting followed by faith-filled messages? As the first believers needed the motivation to remain faithful, so do we! In the words of Paul, to who 13 of the 27 New Testament books are attributed,
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Galatians 1: 3-5
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Take some time to read the book of Jude. It's only one chapter but provides rich insight and overflows with encouragement for believers. Write down a verse that spoke to you, and maybe even share the verse in a handwritten note or two with someone who needs encouragement.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Ildar Abulkhanov
Want to grow your prayer life? The So Much More Podcast shows you how to create space to be with God. This podcast, hosted by Jodie Niznik, introduces you to two types of scripture experiences: Lectio Divina and Imaginative Prayer. Join our growing prayer community today!