Paul had been traveling for a long time. He had worked hard, and was undoubtedly very tired. His experiences, though thrilling, had an alarming element as well. The Spirit of God had told him he would become a prisoner because of his tenacious teaching of the faith.
When he got to the Jewish capital, he and his companions went to see some of the local church members. Their reception was just what they needed: "When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly." (Acts 21:17, NIV) Other translations give us "...received us gladly" (NASV, RSV) and "...were very happy to see us." (EVD) And these early Christians eagerly exhibited their warmth.
The impression given is that of sincerity, openness, friendliness and genuine concern for the welfare of these beloved brethren in the Lord. No doubt the spirits of Paul and his traveling companions soared as they were given this reception. There isn't any indication as to how they demonstrated their feeling. And the “how” isn't important right now. Every culture has its customs in things like this. There was probably a lot of hugging and kissing and hand clasping, all evident in other places in the New Testament. This wasn't the first time they were shown such warmth. At Ephesus, Tyre, Caesarea, Antioch and others stops, the brethren were glad to see them. Naturally, there were problems. But this only served to make the loving fellowship between fellow Christians even sweeter.
What does this have to do modern Christians? Isn't this kind of sincere joy in greeting one another, in sharing our blessings in Christ, just as vital in the first decade of the 21st century as it was in the middle of the first century? "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.... Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:10, 15)
It is true that some days are gray. Sometimes, it's hard to be cheerful. Sometimes the body aches, or the soul is in despair. But this should motivate us to turn to the Lord and his people. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil.4:4) Experience should teach us - sooner or later - that self-pity is not very effective medicine. What was it Solomon said? “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Concluding his letter to the Philippians, Paul told them of his joy in their "renewed concern" for him. He had never doubted them, but knew they had "had no opportunity to show it." (4:10) We never know when we will be deprived by life's circumstances of opportunities to encourage, and be encouraged by, our fellow disciples in Christ.
Every time you see or talk to another Christian, make a special effort to greet her warmly. Treat him like the special friend he is, and let him know by your words and body language how glad you are that both of you are part of the family of God. You might be helping her more than you know. And who knows...you might benefit by it as well!
At least it’s worth a try, don’t you think?
Larry Sheehy is the preaching minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269 or email@example.com