“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples because you love one another” (John 13:35). Love is seen in the way we react to each other as we meet and then as we later leave. The love of the father for the prodigal son was visibly seen as he rushed toward him. What did the father do to the barefooted son in ragged clothes who had been among the swine? He embraced him and kissed him. Contrast this with how the older brother reacted.
When Paul spoke of greeting one another with a holy kiss, he was not instituting a new form of greeting. Some focus only on the kiss, while Paul’s emphasis was on the nature of the kiss. The kiss of Judas in Gethsemane was far removed from being holy—it was hypocritical.
Kissing is only one way to greet. It varies in different cultures. Some reverently bow toward the other person with folded hands. In other places, there is kissing on the cheeks—either one or both. Then, there are those where greetings are shown by rubbing one’s nose against another’s. How each of these is done can show respect, honor or love. Paul’s emphasis was not on the kiss, but its genuine sincerity.
It is interesting to note how often the Bible talks about what happened after the kiss. Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. The text says he embraced Benjamin, kissed all his brothers and “…after that his brothers talked with him” (Gen. 45:14). The kiss was just the beginning. It was what followed that really showed his heart. Think again of the kiss of Judas and what followed.
In Acts 21, Paul arrived in Jerusalem and greeted the elders. What happened next? “He told in detail the things God had done among the Gentiles.” The emphasis is not on the greeting but what followed. Paul greeted in writings. He greeted 24 people in just 13 verses in Romans 16. Culture often determines the nature of the greeting. The heart determines how sincere it is.
We see genuine brotherly love so often. Think of what spontaneously happens after one is baptized and is welcomed into the kingdom. You see it again when one is restored. It is seen in the compassion at funerals.
In recent days, we have experienced new ways of greeting. In view of the contagious virus, there are still shaking hands or embracing others. Far more will bump fists—where did that come from? Some teens bump toes as they greet. Who would have ever thought Americans would ever greet by bumping elbows! Remember there are holy kisses, holy hugs, holy fists, and holy elbows. It is what follows the greetings that matters!