On showing familial affection for believers and neighborly love to unbelievers in a distinguishable and meaningful way:
Our theology and practice of *greeting* brothers in Christ is surprisingly relevant. We are called in Scripture to give brothers a “holy kiss.” Try approaching it seriously. It’s a real command. We are to greet fellow disciples of Jesus with warm affection. To receive, welcome, and host them with special kind of familial love.
When my coworkers see me encounter a believer on the way (walking across the street) to lunch, they seem me jump up, excited. I don’t hug my coworkers. I hug brothers.
Around 2001 I started saying, “Grace and peace!”, to brothers in Christ. It might sound awkward or unusual to modern ears, but so what? I say explicit things like, “Greetings in Christ” or “It’s good to see a brother” when believers come through our church doors.
Find *some* way to essentially do this. It’s awkward at first. Get over it. It’s Biblical. I’m not weird. Our culture is weird.
When you make a practice of *especially* greeting brothers in Christ, of giving them a clear affirmation of brotherhood upon first seeing them or departing from them, then you will develop over time a *different* but still genuine way of graciously greeting *unbelievers*.
The former is the greeting of familial love (Romans 16:16), the latter is a greeting of neighborly love (Matthew 5:47).
One benefit of developing a theology and practice of special greetings and conversational warmth for brothers is that you can then act in clear-minded conscience when you start a conversation with an unbeliever. You can send clearer signals.
You can put yourself into a categorical mode of thinking about the relationship. You are not treating them like spiritual family.
Over time, unbelievers will see you act with a warmth toward believers that you don’t have with unbelievers. And yet they will know you have been courteous or gracious with them.
Greeting is serious business:
- Jesus wants us to greet unbelievers. (Matthew 5:47)
- The disciples were to greet believers who hosted them as emissaries of Christ. (Matthew 10:12)
- To avoid a fleshly enjoyment of greetings (Matthew 23:7, Luke 11:43)
- The angels greet. (Luke 1:28)
- Paul greets sibling in Christ by name. (Romans 16:3-15)
- Believers are commanded to greet each other with a “holy kiss”. (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26)
- We are commanded to *avoid* greeting false teachers. (2 John 10:10)