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The Message Behind the Holy Kiss

The book of Acts retells the story of how the church began. At the time it was written, joining the church often came at a high price.

For a Jew, to accept the teachings of Jesus and be baptized into the church often meant being out-casted by their family, removed from their home, and ostracized by their community. For the Gentile, it was a complete rejections of all they had ever known only to join a group of believers that would too often look down on them and question their salvation. As they sought for "where" they fit in the family of God, many Jewish believers struggled with "if" they fit - causing debate and argument within the church body.

Not only that, but once they committed their lives to Christ, both Jew and Gentile would face the persecution of Rome and Jewish leaders who wanted nothing to do with the Jesus they thought they had silenced. Houses of believers were being destroyed. Business were being burned. Christians were being thrown into prison daily, thrown to lions for sport, and stoned in the streets. The church “gathering” became one of the only places that a believer could find the safety of belonging and the freedom to fully be themselves.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Paul instructs the church of Thessalonica to “Greet (receive joyfully) ALL the brothers (fellow believers)," at their gatherings, "with a holy kiss." A kiss?! Paul wanted the church to greet each other with a KISS? The answer: YES! In fact this same message is repeated 3 more times in the New Testament:

  • 1 Corinthians 16:20 “Greet each other with a holy kiss.”

  • 2 Corinthians 13:12 “Greet each other with a holy kiss.”

  • Romans 16:16 “Greet each other with a holy kiss.”

And when I read this - I have to ask, "WHY?" Why did this "holy kiss" matter so much? Why - with everything they were facing - did Paul take the time to remind the church to greet each other in this way?

The answer is simple:

The “Holy Kiss” was more than a kiss.

It sent a message.

For the Gentile Christian, the kiss said, “I fully accept you into this family. You are welcome here.”

For the Jewish Christian, the kiss said, “You belong here. You are loved here. We will be your family.”

And for all, the kiss said, “We are one. We stand together. We all have a seat at the table.”

Now-a-days, a “Covid-Approved” fist bump, "church-appropriate side-hug," or hand shake might be more socially appropriate than a kiss, BUT the message behind the kiss STILL needs to be heard. As fellow Christians, we are called to receive one another joyfully and offer one another acceptance, belonging, and connection. And, if we are honest, isn't that something we all long for?

Romans 15:7

“Accept one another, then,

just as Christ accepted you,

in order to bring praise to God.”

The word "accept" in the original Greek means to "to take as one’s companion, to take by the hand, to grant one access to your heart, to take one into friendship, and to receive." This is to be more than a simple, "Welcome to church. We're glad you are here." It's more than a smile or a

nod of the head to acknowledge someone's presence. It is a, "Do you have lunch plans?" and a "Can I sit by you?" It's a, "Would you like to come over for coffee?" and a, "I don't have answers but I will sit here and hold your hand."

Surrounded by a world in which we do not (and should not) fit in - the church is to be the place where we DO fit in - the place where we find belonging, friendship, and connection. The place - the people - that remind us, "We are not alone."

As we open our hearts and arms to each other, we send the message of the "holy kiss" and, although this form of greeting may have went out of a style over the years, you can be sure that the message never will.

  • Who is someone that you could reach out this week?

  • Do you isolate or do you live in community?

  • Do you do things to invest in your relationships with others? If not, why not?

  • What are some ways that you could share the message of the "holy kiss" with others?


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