A holy kiss – What is it?

In biblical times, it was common for people to greet each other, or to say goodbye, with a non-sexual kiss. Many people throughout the world still show non-sexual physical affection to those they are fond of, and to family members, by kisses on one or both cheeks in greetings. Other cultures prefer a handshake.

The New Testament refers to a holy kiss in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In each, the idea is to display a kindred spirit, purity, and love for one another, not a physical attraction or public display of affection.

The kiss is "holy" in that is more than just a sign of greeting. It is physically pure and morally blameless. A holy kiss is one that is not disingenuous or deceitful, contrary to Judas' kiss to betray Jesus. Rather, a holy kiss between Christians is to express brotherly love and unity. Often, a new Christian would be ostracized from family and friends. A holy kiss would communicate a familial closeness. Further, when Jewish and Gentile Christians would greet each other with a holy kiss, the action communicated an acceptance and close fellowship.

Though Paul entreated Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss, it is unclear whether the practice is expected or instructed for modern Christians. Some churches do practice such a greeting with strict rules and instructions about communicating a pure, righteous, and sincere Christian affection with such a greeting. No matter the form of our greetings, they should be founded in true, agape love for our brothers and sisters in Christ and be characterized by purity and sincerity.

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