Theology Thursday: Greet One Another with a Kiss

Little Asian girl kissing baby sister on the cheek while man in blue shirt watches

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” – Romans 16:16, NIV

We Can Readily Apply Most “One Another” Commands

Some of the “one another” commands in the New Testament are familiar to us, for example, “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). We can generally find applications for these fairly readily. For example, if my neighbor gets sick, I can help in practical ways such as offering to bring over a meal.

What About the “Holy Kiss” Command?

But how do I apply the command to greet someone “with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:20) or a “kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14). This seems particularly strange to us in American culture. In Europe, greeting with a kind of stylized kiss is more common. In any case, how do we deal with this command to greet one another with a kiss?

Interpreting Biblical Commands

This brings us up against the very important question of how biblical commands work. Many commands in the Bible are given as examples of how to apply more general principles. For example, Deuteronomy 22:8 says, “When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” This command is an application of the principle in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Today, most of us do not spend time on our roofs. A modern application of “Love your neighbor as yourself” would be to build a railing around a deck or a fence around a swimming pool. The Bible often presents a principle, provides a few examples, and then leaves it to us to create other applications of the principle.

The Holy Kiss Implied Full Acceptance

Returning to the idea of a holy kiss, a major issue facing the first New Testament churches was tension between Jewish and non-Jewish (gentile) believers. Jesus and the New Testament writers stressed the equal inclusion of all groups into the family of God. In New Testament times, a kiss on the cheek was used for greeting and implied friendship and acceptance. A kiss of greeting between Christians implied that no elite groups existed and that all were equally loved and accepted—not only by God—but by one other.

Applying the Kiss of Love Today

How do we demonstrate with a greeting the principle that all are accepted equally in Christ? A handshake by itself does not necessarily show acceptance.

In today’s context, we can add eye contact and some kind words. This is how we can show the same kind of acceptance that was implied by the “holy kiss” or the “kiss of love.” Christians are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) that includes people from all “nations, tongues, and tribes” (Revelation 7:9). All are accepted by God and we can demonstrate that with a warm greeting.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.