Under most circumstances, a quick sneeze will likely bring you an instant response from one or more people who happened to hear your best efforts to stifle an “ah-choo.” Friends or strangers are apt to offer a “gesundheit” or a “God bless you” almost instantly. It’s a nice practice and actually dates back to 77AD so we’ve been doing this a long time. Pope Gregory I instituted this blessing in an effort to thwart the bubonic plague. Even Caesar rendered the blessing to those he passed by on his chariot. Whether the idea is to somehow protect or heal or otherwise promote something good to happen for someone elses welfare, offering a blessing is a practice we need to continue.
If you remember the story of Isaac and how his sons Jacob and Esau both sought his blessing, you can see that there was something very significant that happened when fathers blessed their children. My friend, Rolf Garborg, has an incredible book called The Family Blessing, where he shares with us his habit of calling each of his children every day, no matter how old they may be or where they live, to speak a word of blessing to them. Imagine a world where parents are speaking a word of blessing every day to their children!
In 1st Peter 3, according to The Message version we read: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead bless–that’s your job, to bless.
I love that idea and if it could catch on as quick as a sneeze, it would be perfect. Let’s make it our job to be the ambassadors of blessing. Let’s put a big “God Bless YOU!” in front of those we love, those we encounter who need help, and those who are absolute strangers to us. If something like a sneeze can make us pause even for a moment and think how nice it would be, even if we’re simply being polite or acknowledging that another person exists, if something that simple can get us to offer a blessing…what else could do it?
What would it take for you to simply share a blessing with your child? your best friend? your spouse? Do we actually need something that feels like an excuse to exercise this precious demonstration of God’s love and ours? As someone who fully believes that the words we speak to each other really matter, that every word either lifts up or destroys another, I think it would be an incredible movement to become the “Bless You” generation. You already have it within you. You’re already “agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble.” You can be the Isaac of your home, blessing your children, your neighborhood, and the lives of countless people.
According to the Scripture above this isn’t just a nice thing for us to do. It’s not just a polite observance of someone standing nearby who happens to sneeze. It’s your job to bless. You have been blessed to be a blessing and that is all there is to it. Hey, and if you happen to ward off a few demons or strengthen the soul of someone you’ve never seen before then you got a bonus.
So in my heart of hearts, please accept this humble gift, this wonderful thought adapted from Numbers…May the good Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace. This is still one of my favorite words of blessing ever. I’d love it if you’d pass it along today.