Would you like a kiss? Maybe you would–if it came from a special someone. However, what about a kiss from the person who sits on the pew in front of you in church?
What if, instead of shaking hands with people at church, you gave them a big kiss (even the guy who doesn’t own a toothbrush)? Did I hear someone yell, “Yuck!”?
The instruction of the apostle Paul to “greet one another with a holy kiss” seems a bit odd in most Western cultures. Yet Paul gave that command to three different churches (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).
I would be all for it if Paul had in mind Hershey’s Kisses. They are already the best-selling packaged candies in the world (12 billion produced yearly), and I’m sure even the smallest church could find money in the budget for such a sweet cause.
That, unfortunately, is not what Paul had in mind. No, the “holy kiss” mentioned in the Bible was a custom practiced in the ancient East, and carried over into the church. It was a physical and visible expression of something unseen–the love, acceptance, and unity that was to exist among believers. (Especially when they gathered to worship and to partake of the Lord’s Supper)
What is the modern-day counterpart? A warm handshake comes close. A greeting or expression of love and concern may be another way to “kiss” others. I personally like the “holy hug”, but that’s just me, I’m a hugger!
The key issue, though, is not whether we go around kissing people at church or whether we pause during the praise time to greet the people around us. What matters is that we show and express our love and our common bond in Christ with others who follow Him.
When you are attending church (or any Christian gathering for that matter) do the people there make you feel welcome and accepted? Do you feel like part of the family? Even more importantly, do you make the people around you feel welcome and accepted, like they are part of your family?
When I was campus pastor at UGA Christian Campus Fellowship I regularly asked our staff and leaders this question: “How can we help the people we meet at CCF to sense more strongly our unity in Christ and to experience the kind of fellowship that encourages one another?” That is a good question for every Christian to ask themselves. But the “holy kiss” is not only to be practiced when we gather together but while we are scattered in the world. In fact, when you meet a brother or sister in Christ in your workplace, classroom, or in the marketplace they may need a “holy kiss” more then than they do when they are at church. I know that I do.
Warm greetings chase away cold feelings. I really believe that! So, next time you see me coming, pucker up!