The Beauty of the Church: Learning the Basics of Christian Affection

Romans 16 is an interesting chapter.  At first glance, its simply a bunch of names as Paul closes the book.  But there’s way more to it.  After commending Phoebe and greeting many friends in Rome, Paul encourages them to greet one another with a holy Kiss.  This is not an uncommon request of Paul, he likes this form of greeting.  It seems he stressed the importance of this custom in places where other forms of greeting-specifically the Roman handshake-was more common. I want to dive into this briefly.  

Paul taught that believers should fully support and engage in the culture around them.  We are to respect government authority, honor our neighbors, and enjoy our liberties in Christ as we impact our communities.  But…we must not become so absorbed by our culture that we lose our distinctiveness.  The kiss was quintessentially an Eastern custom, practiced by the Jews.  I believe Paul wants to preserve this simple act of intimate greeting-a peck on the cheek, as a public symbol of unity and acceptance.  As two men or woman ran into one another in public, those around them would witness the kiss and know they had a close bond, a special kind of unity that was found in the man of Christ.

I also believe Paul wants the Eastern kiss to remind believers living in the west their origins.  They holy kiss, like the handshakes of secret societies, would re-enforce their shared identity.  But more than anything, this kind of greeting is difficult to do with people who are at odds, gossiping about one another and who are treating one another badly.  

I’m down with shaking hands with anyone, but I’m not just kissing any dude on the cheek, and I would have a real hard time to kiss the cheek of someone I’m at odds with.  Paul’s command would be a powerful motivation for me to keep my relationship close and clean.

Today with technology and phones and the way we are so transient we have become a nation of strangers.  Every poll you see backs this up, we are more and more isolated and depression and mental health issues are at all-time highs, and this was before shelter in place.  Here we are surrounded by people, yet feeling utterly alone.  It happens in the church.  We must be family.  
You and I were created for meaningful connection.  Verse 16 is all about connection.  
As I think about this verse-which is easily glossed over as it’s at the end of the book.   I have discovered a 2 Facts About the Diversity of the Church that we can learn from and need to understand.

1.  The Church has beautiful oneness, not sameness.

From this list of names, we find the diversity of Paul’s close friends.  They include singles, married couples, widows, widowers.  He greets men and women, slaves and social elites, new Christians and mature ones, Greeks, Romans and Jews.  He has met some in prison, many in Synagogues’, several in the market place, a few in churches, yet all of them in the course of proclaiming Christ.  They came from all over the empire from multiple backgrounds and traditions, but they all share one thing in common:  salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

This past week, I’ve created videos, shared the platform for rally’s, and web streams, joined in prayer with people from across the spectrum of age, class, color, ethnicity and culture.  So many things that should have divided us.  But we were united in Jesus.  The Church us a beautiful tapestry of the work of our amazing creative, Creator.  We should celebrate that and understand that our unity highlights the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Jesus said, “Father may they be one, as you and I are one.”

2.  The Church is characterized by its love.

Paul’s greetings are relatively unadorned considering the bond he shares with many of the individuals. Phoebe was crucial to the church in Cenchrea.  He shared his vocation of tent making and his ministry of disciple making with Priscilla and Aquilla in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome.  He shared his dungeon with Andronicus, and Junias, and with these 27 men and women, and his love for them transcends the need for flowery words.  Instead, Paul uses words to demonstrate the value he holds for them rather than merely to tell of his feelings.
Paul’s list of greetings reflects his vision for the Church.  His greetings, reflect his vision for you.  Our churches, and social spheres should be no less diverse than the communities we serve and live, yet unified by a singular devotion to Jesus. You must be a person who desires to work, serve, share, give and suffer without accolades.  You must be quick to show appreciation and love to one another regularly.  You need to be so united in love with other believers, that a kiss on the cheek would feel as natural from one another as it does when I scoop Kate and the boys up and give them a big smooch on the cheek.  Now, let me make this real easy.  

Paul and his friends in Rome did not share a lukewarm love.  The hardships and victories of ministry had bound their hearts together in a deep, abiding affection that neither time nor distance could diminish.  He hoped this same kind of love and affection would bind believers in Rome into an indivisible, tight knit community.  As a matter of fact, that’s what he wants for you and me today.

We won’t ever come close to fixing the issues of hate, and distrust in our world until the Capitol C church, transformed by the gospel can unite as one in love in Jesus.  We must show the world the way.
“We won’t ever come close to overcoming the issues of hate and distrust in our world until the Church demonstrates oneness”

4 Practices you must apply now:

  • Accept one another.
  • Start following the example of Jesus.  
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.  
  • Give your love freely.
To learn more about Pastor Chris visit or to listen to the rest of His sermon on this topic, visit
Pastor Chris Williams
Pastor Chris is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.




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