“The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:19–20, KJV)
One of the things that seems to be fading in our society is the art of greeting people. It is even a problem in the church today. Our children are not learning this art. Most of them have their noses pointed into their electronic devices. The other day my wife and I were walking down a wide path and a fellow was walking towards us with his smartphone. We struggled to avoid running into him. He was heading right towards us. When he finally saw us, he just moved over to the side and immediately put his head back into the electronic device without so much as a nod acknowledging our existence. We are losing the art of the greeting.
My folks spent some time with my siblings and me working on common courtesies. We were taught to say hello mister or miss so and so, and to shake hands properly. It was common courtesy. We still see the older folks doing so, but even in the older generation the practice is diminishing.
In the church, it is especially troubling, when people do not greet one another. My wife and I once visited a large church and honestly, I think that we could have dropped dead in the pew without notice. People would have just stepped over us on the way out at the end of the service. Well, maybe that is a bit extreme, but you get the point.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. In some churches, especially the smaller ones, you will get so much attention on a Sunday morning that you can nearly get smothered. However, often this attention feels disingenuous. It is as if the only reason they are being cordial is because they want you to come back and build up the numbers. Something of sincerity and closeness is missing. The reason I say this is that after Sunday morning event, there is little true communion, if any with the first-time guests.
When we look at the letters that Paul wrote to the various churches, we notice that at the end of them, Paul makes a special effort to send greetings to various believers. At the end of this letter, Paul gives three specific greetings from various groups, the churches of Asia, Aquila and Priscilla along with those in their house church, and all the brothers. Following this, he gives this interesting command, “Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.”
We do not practice this in our culture, that is greeting one another with a holy kiss. It is probably for good reasons. However, the symbolism should say something to us in the church. Paul commanded the church to greet one another in a way that was deeper than the casual, “Hey how are you,” where there was no real communion. The expression speaks of something more personal and intimate in our greetings. It speaks of such intimacy to be expressed in true holiness as is fitting for the saints.
I experienced this type of intimacy in the first church that I ever joined. When I visited this church for the first time, I saw something special happening between the people. They truly loved one another. It was evident. No, they were not kissing one another, but there was something special going on there. It was obvious to me and it had a part of leading me to faith. What I saw was the love of Jesus in action in the fellowship of these believers. Let us pray that God would manifest Christ’s love in us so strongly that we would always lovingly greet all who cross the threshold of our churches.