“Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16, KJV 1900)
I cannot validate this story, but I heard of a church that used to practice giving one another a holy kiss. The story goes that this was all well and good until things got out of hand. I don’t know if the story is true or not and I have never seen this practice in any of the churches that I have been in.
On the other hand, I have seen this in a business in Germany. At first, this sort of shocked me. That is until I began to understand the culture. I was in a business meeting where there was a customer from Russia. When he entered the room his German sales representative and he kissed each other on the cheek several times. What seemed weird to me was quite normal in Russia and in this case expected. Researching this practice, I discovered that it was customary in Russia to kiss three times on alternate cheeks when greeting someone.
In our American culture, this practice relatively unknown. We also do not see it in churches very often. However, in Old Testament times it was practiced and it was practiced by Jews who would kiss close friends and relatives. The example I saw in the business between the Russian person and the German sales representative indicated that these two respected each other and that they were close friends. This is exactly what this practice meant in biblical days. Since the Church is a family, Paul encouraged the churches to continue this practice of greeting.
So how do we take this exhortation today in our American culture? Well, right now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is impossible to follow it and maintain social distancing. Yet, when this crisis has passed, we need to begin the practice again of giving a cordial and warm-hearted greeting to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not think this needs to be a holy kiss, but it does need sincerity in its expression.
I’ll be honest with you. I have been in churches where I could have fallen dead in the pew and people would have walked over my dead body without even giving me a glance. This is far from a holy greeting. Some of these same churches even had the proverbial handshake time during the service.
Let me give you an example of the way a holy greeting should look. I went to a large church one time to speak to the congregation as a representative of the Gideons International. When I arrived, the Senior Pastor met me, shook my hand, smiled and genuinely expressed how great it was to meet me. I will not forget how welcome he made me feel.
I am afraid that we are losing the fine art of greeting people in our society. Today, you will pass people and they do not even give you a glance. You are likely to get run over by someone intently staring at a smart-phone. Moreover, in many churches people will pass you by without giving you even a glance. I have seen it.
Church leaders, parents, grandparents, teach the next generation how to greet others properly. Teach them how to give a firm handshake, how to great their elders properly, to respond properly when someone says hello. Teach them how to have a conversation and make eye contact. We need to regain the practice of a holy greeting.