Whatever Happened to Christian Salutations?

I have always been intrigued by the lack of formalized salutations in the Christian world. Christians greet one another with no distinct language. Muslims, Jews, and others each have greetings that communicates their vision for the world. But whatever happened to a distinctly Christian salutation? I am not asking to restore King James English to letter writing; those days are behind us. But I am asking for some type of formality in exchanges and greetings. Christians can replace “bye” with “The Lord bless you.” They can greet each other with “The Lord be with you” instead of “How are you?”

The type of salutation we use in our worship service is actually a reflection of the common greeting of the Church in their day-to-day activities. It is taken from Ruth four where Boaz greets his workers with “The Lord be with you.” It is not merely reserved for the formal gathering. We use it also in our “passing of the peace” during the Eucharistic meal. But why can we not take it a step further and use it in e-mail exchanges or personal greetings? You can set up your signature on Gmail with something like “The Lord be with you” at the end of every e-mail. Rosenstack-Huessy says that greetings orient the speaker and hearer to the same environment. Christians need to be oriented to the same peace often.

This may seem trivial to some, but I argue that for Christendom to succeed we need to restore a Christian grammar to our day-to-day conversation and interactions. Colossians says that our speech needs to be seasoned with salt. Part of this saltiness means re-orienting ourselves with a distinct vocabulary. The apostle Paul was naturally fond of this type of interaction. He began most of his letters with a salutation. For Paul, when Christians meet or engage one another they are not meeting on neutral territory, they are meeting on holy ground. They are image-bearers engaging one another in common discourse; common, but also sacred. Everything we say and do as Christians carry a sacredness to it. This sacredness, I believe, needs to be translated into our day to day greetings and interactions.

Parents can begin very early to cultivate these practices with their little ones. They can greet them in the morning with peace and put them in bed with God’s peace.

We need to consider carefully the implications of what we say and how we say it. God has given us some principles on how our speech is to be carried out. As ambassadors, we have an opportunity to greet one another in a love that binds us together and in a union that cannot be severed. Peace be with you.

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