The church you attend probably has a time near the beginning of the service when someone tells everyone to stand up and say hello to people near you. This little ritual seems to have begun as an effort to curb feelings revealed in surveys that people felt unwelcomed in some churches. My church has this same greeting time.
Last Sunday as I was shaking hands with various people, I felt someone lightly tap on my shoulder. I turned just in time to see a Millennial walking away from me, but waving and smiling as he returned to his seat.
Immediately behind him was a man slightly older than me who stopped right in front of me and just looked at me. Then, without smiling or offering the usual handshake, he said, “I’m going to get you a razor.” I smiled and said, Oh, I have one. I shave almost every day around my cheeks and my lower neck.”
He then began to tell me how “scraggly” my bread was and that he thought I needed to shave it off. He said it was “ugly” and the only worse beard he has seen was that of the middle school pastor, who’s beard is probably 2-3 inches longer than mine. He then walked toward he seat and left me there speechless.
Well, maybe I wasn’t speechless. The guy standing next to me simply said, “Well then,” with a surprised look on his face. And I said, “I’m trying to keep my old Chicago self from walking up there and fixing his lip.” But then I would have a totally different problem with my senior pastor, a former policeman.
What gives some Christians the idea that they can simply say whatever they think? Do some Christians (I’m not lumping everyone into one group here) not understand that a greeting time in church is supposed to be a positive experience, especially for someone who doesn’t know you?
Throughout my time in the military, I was clean shaven, although I did occasionally have a mustache. After I got out of the Army, unlike many guys I know, I decided not to grow a beard. I actually liked the clean-shaven look.
However, one year my wife asked one autumn day, “Do you know what I want from you for Christmas?” After several incorrect answers she finally told me that she wanted me to grow a beard for her. She thought it would look nice, and as it fully can in, she enjoyed combing it with her fingers. She loved my beard and since it was her Christmas present, she made me promise to never take it off. And I haven’t.
While my wife passed away over seven years ago, the beard remains, although it’s sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. I get a lot of positive comments from random strangers; even people on a bus or train in London who never talk to strangers will comment on my beard.
I remember an adage my mother used to quote: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We often laugh when we hear that throughout our lives. But some people, even some who attend Church, haven’t figured out how to keep their opinions to themselves when they are not requested.
However, in case someone’s mother did not relay this little piece of wisdom to her children, as Christians (or at least church attenders), let’s remember the Apostle Paul did give us similar instructions to “let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6, NASB).