Have you thought much about the way you say “Goodbye” to people?
Frankly, it seems that our goodbyes are trite and offered without much forethought. We say, “Bye, see you next Sunday.” My grandchildren never say goodbye without a hug, even the guys join in. Their hugs sometimes seem to be a kind of rote habit. That’s OK with me. Keep them coming.
When Paul said goodbye to his friends and fellow believers in Ephesus, he covered the four points of the gospel of Jesus. Listen to these truths again:
Peace – He was talking about the peace that comes only from God. It conveys a sense of spiritual welfare and blessing--“Shalom.” It was used by folks at that time both as a greeting and a benediction. People who know the Peace of God are both spiritually and physically complete. They own a share in the character of God. Because God is peace, His peace is given to you. That is a great truth to convey to someone, especially when you may never see them again. In an uncertain world when persecution may take your life from you or the unbelieving environment may claim another victim, conveying God’s peace on somebody may be the last thing you get to say to them. Jesus used the word peace, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). If Jesus used this word to say goodbye to His disciples, it would be a good word for us to use as well.
Love – This is the self-sacrificing word adopted by the church to inspire the self-giving, “lay-down-your-life” kind of love that Jesus showed us on the cross. Again, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In today’s “dog-eat-dog,” “take care of number one” world, sacrificial love is in short supply. If there’s any place where God’s love should prevail, it’s at church. Why is it so hard to say, “I love you,” when we say goodbye to our friends at church.
Faith – Believing faith is the glue that holds us together with Christ and with each other. We share the same faith that Jesus is the Son of God. We are bound together by “…one faith, one Lord, one baptism and one God and Father of us all” (Ephesians 4:5-6). It is our faith that saves us, sustains us and maintains us. Like the hymn writer wrote, “Faith is the Victory that Overcomes the World.” When we say goodbye to each other on Sundays, we may be separated physically, but our faith binds us together with cords that cannot be broken.
Grace – God’s amazing grace is what saves us. Grace is about living under the umbrella of God’s unmerited favor. It is a gift from God. You don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). We are totally dependent on the grace of God. We are people who are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). You cannot do anything better for somebody than pass God’s amazing grace along to someone.
You might say, “Pastor, I don’t have time to say all that when I tell somebody goodbye.” I agree that we’re too busy and too preoccupied to tell each other truth things that really matter. This world is opposed to us. Society is working hard to defeat us. The devil is going everywhere trying to devoir God’s people. Let’s take the time. Let’s change the circumstances. Say goodbye this morning in a way that a person will remember. After all, you may never see them again.