Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. - Romans 16:16
This practice of the early Church called the "holy kiss" is also called in Churches the kiss of peace, sign of peace, or simply peace or pax. It occurs 5 times in the New Testament (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14). In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the kiss of peace is given with this command: "Let us love one another that we may confess...the Trinity." The thinking was that when believers show the love of God to each other in accepting each other it confesses the love of God in them. Also in many traditions the holy kiss was extended before the taking of the Holy Communion. Symbolizing that God extended us great love in the Son of God and we should therefore love one another. The Church is to be a place of family (Ephesians 2:19) where all feel accepted and are given grace and love. The Church is to be a place where we show impartial love in not judging but loving one another. Each person should be loved equally as preferring each other in James 2 is forbidden. In the middle eastern culture the holy kiss was done each on the lips or on the cheeks, some Christian traditions continue in this way. Others bow to each other with a smile of acceptance. The significance for believers today is not in the need to actually kiss each other but in accepting each other as part of God's family and forgiving and loving each other in the body of Christ. What a wonderful proclamation to make to each other in the body of Christ declaring that we are the family of God.
Paul's letter to Ephesus was written to, "God’s holy people" (Ephesians 1:1) and he also says to "Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss" (1 Thessalonians 5:26). He says to all of God's people, we are not to prefer between each other. Also he states that we are holy people and it is a holy greeting. Christian brotherhood and fellowship is something so deep that it is more real even them our own family ties. I remember when traveling in Germany to speak in a Church, when I first walked in one brother gave me a kiss on both of my cheeks. I never met this brother before and did not know his name but we felt the sense of brotherhood and family connection in the body of Christ. This is a good test to ask ourselves, could we give a holy kiss to all other believers we know of? Or is there some unforgiveness, hurt, bitterness towards someone? We are the family of God who will be eternally together, what a tragedy to not be able to extend the kiss of peace now to a brother or sister that you have ought with. Some though have extended a different type of kiss, one that is soberly spoken of in scripture, as Judas kisses and betrays the very Son of God (Mark 14:45). Betrayal and disloyalty in the body of Christ is a terrible sin for it is the breaking of fellowship and hurting another. Perhaps of all the things done to Christ this was one of the most painful as his own follower betrays him for a small amount of money. When we sin against each other in this way it is as if we are also kissing Jesus again. May we seek to love each other in the body of Christ and not allow disunion, bitterness and hurt, but rather love and the kiss of peace.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon