26th February 2011

To Kiss Or Not To Kiss—Is That The Question?

“Greet one another with a holy kiss”
2 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV UK) 

Greeting one another with a holy kiss? What did Paul mean? 

In the biblical world kissing was culturally romantic or non-romantic. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” yearns the bride-to-be of her future husband (Song of Songs 1:2). Listed among the non-romantic would be kissing among close family members (e.g. parents to children, etc), greetings and farewells (e.g. “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye” – Ruth 1:14), acknowledgement of close friends (e.g. when Judas kissed Christ in the garden of Gethsemane), acts of devotion (e.g. the woman who kissed the feet of Jesus) and sanctification (e.g. when Samuel anointed David – 1 Samuel 10:1). 

In today’s society there is also non-romantic kissing. When greeting associates some Europeans kiss briefly on alternate cheeks. If you are like me, you might find this confusing. I am never sure whether to begin on the left or right cheek, and whether it is two kisses or three. Often I just go to shake hands! 

When Paul tells the Corinthians to kiss one another with a holy kiss he is not suggesting that we intrude into other people’s space. Being inclusive is not an excuse for being intrusive, and we need to respect the feelings and sensitivities of the cultures and backgrounds of others. 

It is interesting that this verse is one of the “one another” verses—like love one another, forgive one other, etc. It is to do with relationships within the church. Paul also uses the word “holy”, indicating that God is involved in our relationships with one another. 

The non-romantic gesture of the holy kiss would have signified much to the first century Christian. It would have re-assured them that they have been included in the family of believers. It would have underlined how devoted members were to one another, and how, together, they had been set apart for God’s holy purpose. 

The application is that we should find ways to re-assure others that we have accepted and included them. For some it might still be the holy kiss. For others the holy hug. For others still, the holy handshake. 

And, for those who don’t want to touch or to be touched, and, indeed for us all: the holy smile. 

Include one another. 

Help me to be inclusive in my actions and approach.

Study by James Henderson

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