Greeting vs. Welcoming

A reading for Wednesday, May 17, 2017: Acts 15:22-35.

A friend of mine likes to say, "There's a difference between greeting someone and welcoming them."

Greeting a person is a smile and a handshake. It's small talk about what you have in common and the kindness to compliment. It's a question about someone's family or an inquiry about how things are going at work or at school. Greeting is about acquaintances, or even those we see socially from time to time. Greeting does not necessarily mean connection.

Welcoming on the other hand is a much deeper commitment. Welcoming requires empathy and compassion, identifying with honesty in another person's struggle or even success. It might mean we give up something or change something about ourselves. Welcoming sometimes necessitates a different opinion than the one we had before. Welcoming is the beginning of connection and the forming of a deeper relationship.

In our lesson today there is both greeting and welcoming. In the first part of the letter to the Gentiles, there is a greeting from the brothers in Jerusalem in the names of those that have come to visit. I imagine there is a time of getting to know one another when they arrive. There is small talk and pleasantry in service to the later goal of welcoming.

The welcoming comes from the end of the letter, as the council in Jerusalem announces that it is no longer necessary for new believers to be Jewish in order to be part of the church. The council has discerned the issue and decided to change something about their convictions and experience in order to welcome new believers. Because of the welcoming, a strong connection is made and there is rejoicing.

Lots of churches do a pretty good job at greeting people. Sadly it seems, sometimes our churches are not so good at welcoming.

Which one would we choose... To be a greeting church or a welcoming church?


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