I have a challenge for you. Are you willing to try something new? I would like to encourage you to change the way you greet people and to use the word “shalom” or “peace” instead of the greetings you normally use. It can also be used as a farewell.
In our culture, the typical greetings are “Hi!” or “How are you doing? (for which we do not really expect an honest answer) or “What’s up?” or “Hey!” If we are in “polite company,” we might say “Good morning.” None of these greetings really say very much, so how about being creative.
The same is true with our typical farewells: “Take care,” “Don’t work too hard,” “Good-bye,” or “See you later.” I think we can do better than this.
Let me tell you why I think it is a good idea to greet friends, especially Christian friends, with the words “shalom” or “peace.” During the first century, church leaders often used the words “grace” and “peace” to summarize the heart of the gospel. It then became a standard practice in the early church to greet other Christians with these words and to bid them farewell in the same way.
For them the words were not a casual greeting, as many of our present-day greetings or farewells are, but were powerful reminders of the essence of the Christian faith. Every letter written by the Apostle Paul begins with a greeting that includes the words “grace” and “peace.” Paul’s standard greeting is: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Most of Paul’s letters end in a similar fashion, usually with a benediction about God’s peace. In the letter to the Romans, for example, he writes: “The God of peace be with you all. Amen” (15:33).
The Apostle Peter follows the same pattern in his two letters, greeting his readers as follows: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (II Peter 1:2). Jude, the brother of James, uses a slightly different greeting: “Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance” (v. 2). For the disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the “good news” of God’s grace and peace – their summary of Jesus’ message – was always on their lips.
I am not proposing that we use the full greetings of the Apostle Paul or the Apostle Peter, but how about a shorter version? Do you remember some of the early posts in this Blog where we talked about how shalom incorporates interpersonal relationships, good health, the well-being of society, and living a full life? It is a beautiful word, a rich word, that includes everything humanly speaking you could desire for a friend.
I try to make this a habit in my correspondence or when I meet people. I sometimes end my e-mails to friends with “Blessings!” because I want them to know I wish God’s richest blessings on them and their families. A few are starting to send this blessing back to me.
Some friends I know say “shalom – salaam,” using both the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace. I like this as well. Why not greet and say farewell to friends with words that have substance, words that encourage them? Why not use this greeting or farewell with new people you meet? They might even ask why you use these words – and you have a chance to share something about your beliefs.
Any of you willing to try it? Soon it may become a habit and you’ll be blessing people who come into your life.
- If you try this for several weeks, let me know about your experiences and any responses that you might get – either good or bad.
- I’ve talked about the “pluses” of greeting with the word “peace” or “shalom.” Are there “minuses” or issues arguing against this? What might they be? Do the “pluses” outweigh the “minuses” or not?