Scripture Reading: Isaiah 36:1-37:38 / Galatians 2:1-10 / Psalm 107:23-32
Shaking hands with someone is commonly done in our culture when meeting, greeting or departing. Some believe that the handshake was originated as a peace gesture showing that the hand held no weapon. One reason for this thought is that a 5th century stone was found with a chiseled image of two soldiers shaking hands. I wonder if that’s why parents of my generation told their children after their fighting, “Shake hands and say you’re sorry!”
Today, people shake hands for a number of different reasons. Competing sports teams shake hands as a sign of good sportsmanship. We shake a person's hand to offer our congratulations or to express our gratitude. The handshake has been so honored by some as an expression of trust and agreement that a handshake was as binding as a signed document.
The Apostle Paul speaks about a handshake that was extended to him by the leadership of the early church. “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.” (Galatians 2:9) This handshake expressed the early churches approval and support of Paul’s ministry. They recognized and endorsed Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul had tortured, persecuted and imprisoned many in the early church 10 years prior to this handshake. Instead of grasping their hand to chain them, Paul reached out his hand to agree with them. He went from dreaded enemy to fellow brother in Christ and instead of cowering in fear they extended the right hand of fellowship.
The Greek word for fellowship is “koinonia” and means “joint participation, community and communion”. The early church was identified by “koinonia” as they were unified in fellowship and ministry. This unity gave them courage and strength to endure persecution, battle false doctrine and fulfill the great commission by taking the gospel to the world.
Paul needed “koinonia” and we do as well. We have been called to build one another up and edify one another. A simple handshake can speak volumes to a person who is in need of care, support and friendship. Don’t miss an opportunity to bless and encourage someone with a pat on the back, an embrace or a handshake. There is nothing like being part of the family of God…we can shake on it!