If you have read the Epistles (letters in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul), you will find 4 similar verses in 4 different letters:
- Romans 16:16 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 1 Corinthians 16:20 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 2 Corinthians 13:12 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:26 – Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
What is this holy kiss anyway? Is this a kissing someone in church? Kissing while holding a Bible? Praying while you kiss? Kissing while you pray? What exactly makes it holy?
Greeting one another with a holy kiss is foreign to us because we are generally not a kissing people. I mean we kiss our spouses or children or parents or our Italian Uncle or our cousins (That was for my Southern friends). But for the most part, we don’t usually “pucker up” for our greetings.
So, as this might sound strange to us, Luke 7:40-48 shows how common a greeting a kiss was back in the first century.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
As you can see, Jesus rebukes Simon (a member of the leading religious organization called the Pharisees) for not greeting Him with a kiss when He entered his home. From what we know about Jewish culture, the kiss would have been delivered on one or both cheeks. We see this again in Luke 22:47-48 when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Even today, in that culture – most everyone still greets with a kiss.
So, what do we do with these verses today? If you have never greeted anyone with a holy kiss, have you been sinning? Yes. I mean, No. I don’t know! Here is what we should take from it.
- Greet other believers! I know it sounds elementary but we should make sure we are greeting other believers every opportunity we get. What does it communicate to a non-believing world when they see us greet other believers of different churches, denominations and colors? Though we are different and diverse, our bond is in Christ and that unity just baffles a non-believing world.
- Greet your enemies! Jesus makes it clear, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:47). What does it communicate to your enemies when you greet them, in spite of how they treat you? When you ignore those who persecute you or withhold your greeting from those who bother you, your actions become Gentile-ish, in the eyes of God. Remember, knowing that Judas was about to betray Him unto death, Jesus greeted Judas and allowed a kiss from the ultimate betrayer.
- Greet appropriately. If an older person enters the room, respect for their age should cause you to rise to greet them (Leviticus 19:32). While you are greeting, you should always maintain eye contact and smile alot. The use of titles (such as “Mr.¨ or “Mrs.¨ or “Sir¨ and “Ma’am¨ are always appropriate, particularly with those older than you. The woman’s kiss (in the passage above) was appropriate given Whom she was kissing.
- Greet affectionately. If you know the person well (family, close friend, etc) greet them with a holy kiss on the cheek. When they ask what you are doing, simply say “Romans 16:16 baby!¨ and make them wonder what kind of verse that is! If you know the person more casually, greet them with a holy hug or holy handshake or a holy high five. If the person is a true enemy, perhaps you should toss them a holy hand grenade. If you don’t have one, a warm greeting will do.
Regardless of how you greet, be sure that you do.
After all, who wants to disobey the kissing verse?