I ran into Jewel Food Store to do my weekly grocery shopping (although it had been a couple weeks since my last visit). I was greeted as I entered the automated door by a woman who gave me a brilliant smile. Surprised, I could hardly muster a smile in return.
Gathering my shopping cart and pushing it down the aisle, an employee who has been at Jewel for almost three decades stretched out her arms and smiled at me. This time I smiled back. “Aren’t you generally here with someone else?” she asked. I thought that was a rather odd question and replied, “No, I generally do my grocery shopping on my own.” “Just goes to show: The more you see people, the less you know about them.”
Hm-m-m-m-m-m. Something odd about all that. I pushed the cart to the produce department. Here, one of the grumpy-faced regular checkout clerks greeted me with a question. “Is there anything I can help you with? Are you finding everything you need?” She also asked me this same question in the cereal aisle; again in the home supplies section; and again around the staple shelves. None of these times did she appear to recognize me from the previous encounters just a few minutes before.
I got it. Someone had conducted a customer-service survey and concluded that buyers thought the Jewel-Osco personnel were not friendly enough. So sure enough, these ladies were working on being friendly. The first woman, however, gave a dazzling greeting to anyone who pushed through the front doors (at least on the west entrance side). The second woman though I looked vaguely familiar—I have been shopping at this Jewel for over 38 years—but she had the wrong person in mind. The third person didn’t want to be friendly, didn’t really care if I found what I needed, and couldn’t remember that she had asked me the same question four times.
Contrast this to the next day, Sunday morning service in a church we once attended over a decade before. After the service, David and I were pinned into the area around our seats by good friends and former staff members—all people we hadn’t seen in years who were as glad to see us again as we were glad to see them. We came away warmed, feeling kindly about being in this church, glad-hearted with that wonderful feeling of being welcomed, received and accepted.
What a contrast! What a contrast! People knew our names; they greeted us. The pastor came down from the platform and warmly embraced me in the aisle.
“Greet one another…” is a theme that runs through the New Testament. Some places instruct us to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” I take that to mean the greetings we give to one another must be sincere. Sincerity—how infrequently do people give greetings they really mean. I wonder how many heavy hearts are lifted because someone was glad to see that person? I wonder how frequently a burden is lifted by a warm smile of greeting? I wonder how a sad spirit gives way to joy when someone says, “Oh, it is so good to see you!”?
Today—just for practice—let’s be conscious of the quality of how we greet people—with grocery-store-style insincerity, because some manager waves a survey in front of us and insists on brilliant smiles? Or because there is a Christ-like love and tenderness and kindness welling out of us? And just to convince ourselves how important this is, let us read the greeting chapter, Romans 16. Start with verse 3, which begins, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, who worked with me in Jesus Christ, and who risked their necks for my life…”
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.