In most congregations, it’s customary after an assembly for the preacher to stand at the door of the meeting house and shake hands with folks as they exit. I do that, too — but I confess that I never have really gotten used to it. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people. The problem is that I do want to talk to people, and that’s difficult to do in a receiving line. In order to speak to everyone who files past, you can’t say much more than “Have a nice day” or “Thanks for coming” or “Nice to see you.” Stop to converse with someone, and you risk letting a dozen people slip past you un-greeted or creating a pedestrian traffic jam at the exit. By the time you’ve “shaken them all out” and feel like you can take time to talk, half the folks have already gone home.
That’s often how our lives go, isn’t it? We hardly have time to spend with one another. It’s not that we don’t want to. But we have so much going on, so many different commitments. It’s hard to make time for each other, and harder still to make that time meaningful. Think: when was the last time you had a real conversation with another Christian about something more important than sports or the weather? When was the last time the discussion involved helping each other with faults (James 5:16), or motivating each other to better service (Hebrews 10:24), or sharing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)? When was the last time the conversation turned to the spiritual health of the church, or the subject of last Wednesday’s Bible class, or someone you’d like to teach about Jesus?
God says that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). “Company” in that verse denotes companionship, interaction, and even — to borrow the term from the King James Version — communication. If close association with the wicked can corrupt us, isn’t it also true that close association with Christians can strengthen us? And if so, why wouldn’t we seek more of it?
This week you’ll still find me in my usual spot near the door after services. (I guess I’m not ready to buck tradition just yet.) But let’s make an effort to find each other and talk. I mean really talk. Often. We need it.