On a regular basis, we read stories of miraculous rescues. Yesterday, The Miami Herald ran a story about a 3-year-old girl who was rescued after having spent an hour with her arm in a pool drain. Recently, we all followed the dramatic rescue story of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were freed by North Korea after Clinton’s “humanitarian” trip. Finally, of course, we remember one of the greatest and most challenging rescue efforts in our nation’s history: 9/11 and its aftermath.
Although these stories vary in circumstances and results, all of them have one thing in common: the rescued survivors celebrated their redeemed lives by demonstrably sharing their affection with family and friends.
In Romans 16, Paul concludes his letter to the Roman church. In winding down, he asks the letter-bearer to greet more than thirty named individuals on his behalf. At the end, he writes: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” NIV. 16:16.
Does all of his emotion seem too much?
Before becoming a Christian, Paul persecuted and killed Christians. In fact, Paul’s first mention in the Bible happens at the stoning of Steven, where Paul was “giving approval to his death” (Acts 8:1). On the Damascus Road, however, Jesus came to Paul in a vision and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). It was here that God opened Paul’s eyes so that he could became a Christian, an event which he constantly remembered (see Acts 22:7, 26:14).
What does Paul’s conversion have to do with his greetings in Romans? Since Paul lived in the truth that God rescued him from condemnation, Paul’s joy in other rescued Christians was exponentially immense. Every day, in his interactions with other believers, Paul lived as if he were the 3-year-old girl in the pool, or the two reporters in North Korea, or those rescued in 9/11. He wanted to celebrate his rescue with his fellow rescued Christians with much affection.
So, am I like Paul? As a general matter, unfortunately, I do not live in the mindset that God has rescued me from condemnation and, as a result, I start to treat my relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters as ordinary ones. But, I should not. Rather, I should greet them with an immense joy – recognizing that we have been snatched up in God’s love so that we’re heaven-bound to be with him.