Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Romans 16:16*

Well, this is awkward.

In these days of social distancing,
I’m not about to promote puckering up in the pew.

Surely, the original language doesn’t mean an actual kiss, does it?

Greek word meaning
to kiss.

Ok then.

In a sermon entitled “Let’s Bring Back the Holy Kiss”, Pastor Ray Pritchard said, “In the Bible the holy kiss was a sign of love, respect, friendship and honor. It was a mark of innocent affection.”

There is quite a lot of kissing in the Bible.

  • Fathers kiss sons (Luke 15:20)
  • Brothers kiss brothers (Genesis 33:4)
  • Sons-in-law kiss fathers-in-law (Exodus 18:7)
  • Grandfathers kiss grandchildren (Genesis 31:55)
  • Mothers-in-law kiss daughters-in-law (Ruth 1:9)
  • And then, of course, there is that unholy kiss (Matthew 26:49)

A little peck on both sides of the face was a culturally acceptable greeting in biblical times. In an effort to make this verse relevant to our modern age, some translations have replaced “a holy kiss” with “a hearty handshake”. But let me tell you, they are not the same thing. If PB had given me a hearty handshake after a dinner-and-movie date, I might not have married him.

For New Testament believers, a warm greeting expressed brotherly love and unity. The early Christians felt that the holy kiss signified innocent affection. There was no hint of sensuality or impropriety about it.

“During the worship service there was a time of greeting in which the men would kiss the men and the women the women–on the cheek or the forehead. It was a sign of the intense family relationship in the early church. They didn’t just talk about being a family, they were a family and the holy kiss served as a symbol of their love for each other. It was a holy kiss because it was exchanged between holy people. It was a holy kiss because they truly felt they were brothers and sisters in one big, happy family.” (Ray Pritchard)

So what are we to do with this rather bewildering “one another”?

Instead of focusing on the “holy kiss” part, let’s zoom in on the “greet one another” part. In this day and age, how can we offer a warm welcome and express acceptance to one another? Here are some ideas.

  • Use your words. “I’m so happy to see you here at church this morning. How have you been?”
  • Use your eyes. Look at people in the eye and hold their attention long enough to let them see your genuine care and affection.
  • Use your legs. Instead of standing around with the same group of people after church every week, walk over to someone you don’t know very well and show some authentic interest by asking them a question.
  • Use your ears. Listen attentively and respond with kindness.
  • Use your fingers. Punch in a phone number and check in with someone who has been noticeably absent. Don’t send an email or text; don’t substitute technology for a real human voice.
  • Use your lips. Give people a holy smile.

We all want to know someone cares.
We all need to know we’re not alone.
We all long to find a place to belong.
It starts with a greeting, in Jesus’ name.

Lord, help me to look around and see who is being overlooked or ignored. Give me the courage to initiate meaningful conversation with people I don’t know very well. Use my hands, my feet, my voice to make someone feel cared for, included and accepted. Help us, Your children, to greet one another with holy intention.

*Part six in a series on “The One Anothers”

4 thoughts on “Greet

  1. Realized in reading this insightful and encouraging entry, I miss the “passing of the peace” part of our Anglican service.
    Thank you for the reminder of how we can still greet one another.

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