The Greeting Tradition in the Era of Hand Sanitizer

November 09, 2012


I was standing in a church where I was about to speak and the pastor announced, with a sadistic smile that it was time to greet each other. This statement was welcomed with a din of unbridled collective chatter. Being new to the church, I did what all newcomers do. I held my ground.

I believe that the church is the last place where we actively and systematically “Greet” people. If you consider it for very long, you probably would realize, along with me, that this tradition of accosting people we do not recognize with zealous niceness, is maybe… Ummm… frightening.

Place yourself at Walmart. A gregarious voice comes over the speakers heralding that it is 10:00 A.M. walmart-time. That means that you are to welcome other shoppers to the store. How would that fly?

I’m the type of person that doesn’t mind meeting new people, shaking a few hands and perhaps, if the atmosphere is just right, exchanging warm hugs. If the welcoming ritual happened at a store, however, I bowl over the door greeter in an attempt to get out. As it was, being that I had to stay and speak at the church, I protected myself by coughing and sneezing directly into my own hands each time someone approached.

Immediately, after the greeting period, indicated by a few quips by the worship leader regarding how friendly this church was, I could literally smell gallons of hand sanitizer being poured over the welcoming hands.

Imagine Jesus, after he touches the leper in Matthew, chapter eight, runs down to the river and begins to scrub off his top three layers of skin. It may make an impression that Jesus was less convinced of the healing than the rest of us.

I suppose my thoughts on the matter are pretty simple.

Whenever we institutionalize something personal, it makes it creepy. If the people of God took this principle of welcome outside the doors of the church and hugged, loved and invited a culture of lepers into our lives, the gospel of Christ would become vibrant. We need to take it outside.

Just in case God tells me to do something for a leper. I have purchased a small pocket sized hand sanitizer.

Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and carried our diseases.”

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