Learning to Say Hello Again

A New Year’s resolution that could make a big difference.

In his superb biography of Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, Colin Duriez tells us that Schaeffer was known for his kindness. In Escape from Reason, Schaeffer recounts meeting a young man who attended one of his lectures. He lovingly describes him as having a “good-looking, sensitive face, long curly hair, sandals on his feet and … wearing blue jeans.” Schaeffer greeted him the next day, provoking this response: “Sir, that was a beautiful greeting. Why do you greet me like that?” The great evangelist and apologist replied, “Because I know who you are—I know that you are made in the image of God.” He goes on: “We then had a tremendous conversation.”

Greetings matter. Jesus knew this:

And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:47)

Character is largely formed through manners, even by how we acknowledge the presence of others. Virtues and vices begin small and grow larger through habits. Virtues and vices may take over, making us a saint or a devil. Who, having read C. S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory,” could forget this?

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our …

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