Monday, April 14, 2008
For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. 1 Corinthians 16:18
Acknowledge – How do you treat those who are instrumental in lifting you up? If you read this verse in the Greek, it might change your actions. The word is epiginosko, an intensified verb from ginosko (to know). We might think that acknowledging those who encourage us means nothing more than mentioning them in conversation or saying a few prayers on their behalf. But Paul’s choice of verbs would put that kind of thinking to shame. Epiginosko is far more intimate. It means “to know completely, to care for, cherish and actively approve.” Paul tells us that he did precisely this with the people in his life who refreshed him. He encourages his readers to do the same.
All we have to do to see the depth of this word is recall Paul’s Hebrew heritage. Every Hebrew knew that shalom (peace) was the highest priority in human relationships. That’s because shalom covered the gamut of prosperity, health, well-being and peace. If I really care about you, then I care about everything that meets you on your journey through life. If shalom is my goal for you, then I must be thoroughly involved with you. Do you need something? How can I help? Do your circumstances require my involvement? Where can I meet you? Is something or someone burdening you? What can I do? Acknowledgement is far more than a footnote at the bottom of the page giving the correct citation. Footnotes to your life won’t do much to bring about shalom. If I want epiginosko to be a reality, then I will have to act out the second greatest commandment. I will need to love you as my neighbor.
So much of today’s culture pushes us in the opposite direction. We practice distance endorsement. In a world uncomfortable with genuine intimacy, it’s far “safer” to not get involved. So, we become proxy Christians. Sure, we might make an occasional contribution or send a reference letter or a greeting card, but don’t expect us to actually pick up a piece of someone else’s life for them. After all, we have our own issues to deal with. In our world, privacy and separation are highly prized and avidly pursued. We are kings in our own castles and we aren’t about to let others cross the moat easily.
Paul would be dismayed and distressed. No wonder our churches seem less thrilling than a football game, less unified than fans at a playoff. The truth is this: we really don’t know each other – and we really don’t want to. In the Greek post-modern world, we not only maintain our own castles, we are completely occupied with internal castle issues. There just isn’t any time or energy for involvement in the lives of those outside the walls. We haven’t figured out that true Christianity doesn’t live in castles. It lives in busy streets and town squares where life is constantly bumping into other people.
Today, you can pull up the draw bridge and shut the door, or, you can care for and cherish someone who brought shalom to you. You can protect yourself, or you can provide for another. Which will it be?
Topical Index: Community
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