Wednesday, May 18, 2022
When our children were little, we did something at the conclusion of their conflict with a sibling – and they hated it. We made them hug each other. But we knew that while forced affection during times of animosity is repulsive, it’s also healing.
One of the churches the Apostle Paul planted was filled with dissention and animosity. It is the church that Paul wrote to the most. We have two of at least four letters he wrote in our New Testament. It was the church at Corinth. After addressing each of their issues, Paul concludes his letter with this phrase – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Corinthians 16:19-20 “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
Forced affection. No conflict was to ever destroy the unity of brotherly love and affection. No personal disputes were to ever overwhelm the reality of acceptance in the Body of Christ. No disagreement was to ever become more important than the spirit of a person. Caring for people is always more important than caring about issues.
We live in a world that is filled with people longing for acceptance and significance. To quote Gary Chapman, “Their love tanks are empty.” Something so simple as a hug can begin the filling process. Here’s a story from a devotional reader who shares that a hug made a difference in her life.
“Even at 8 or 9 years of age, I knew this woman was different and I respected and admired her. She was my third grade teacher, Esther Lindgren. She began every school day by reading to us from the Bible!!! Even in 1964 this was not a common practice. She stood out in our small community as a very caring and loving woman of God. Later in my teen years this lady had a major impact in my salvation, and with such a small and seemingly insignificant action. I knew she was a woman that had a strong faith, but it was her smile and hugs that brought me that last step into Jesus’ arms. I was searching and I went to her church. Every time that she saw me, she would grab me and hug me and say, “I’m so glad that you are here today!” I felt so loved. Somebody cared. I wanted what she had. What a simple thing that we all can do! On this side of heaven we can never know how all those seemingly insignificant actions and words will affect someone. God can use anything and anyone.”
That young girl grew up to be my wife, and is now filling the love tanks of countless people. She’s making a difference in others because someone made a difference in hers. And she’s not the only one who’s been impacted by honest and sincere gestures of love and acceptance. A former member of our church who moved away many years ago, Marian, writes this,
“I want to thank the Pastoral staff and church family of Calvary Baptist Church of Eau Claire, WI for being the first to show me what true acceptance into the body of believers really meant by fostering a “walking into a hug” fellowship. I got a lot of hugs! I love and appreciate you both. You…have made a profound impact on my life. The church family accepted me and loved me (hat included) as I was. I didn’t have to conform to fit in. You as a church used what I had to offer and made me feel loved and wanted and part of the family. Do you know how rare that is? I do! In my previous 55 years, Calvary was the first to do it.”
I love what Marian said about having a “walking into a hug” fellowship. What a great word picture. Unfortunately for her, and for many others, it took her a long time to discover it. How many people do we meet every day who are longing – craving – for fellowship that feels like walking into a hug. We who have walked into the eternal hug of Jesus are the ones who have hugs to share. Even if you must force it for now, learn to put aside your personal agenda, anxiety, and animosity, and show the affection of Jesus to someone longing for acceptance. Let the love of Christ dwell richly in you and love each other deeply with a sincere love. Greet one another with a holy kiss (HUG).