Summary: Surprisingly, greet one another with a holy kiss is the second most repeated one another command. This culturally out of place command is far more relevant to our culture than we might first realize. We need to focus on the "greet" and not the "kiss."
Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss
I want to start this morning with a little quiz. Now I've already told you that the command to love one another is the most frequently repeated one another principle. It appears no less than nine times in the New Testament. Here's your one question pop quiz. Which one another principle is number two? Which one is repeated the next most number of times? Is it to live in harmony with one another? How about the call to forgive one another? Or perhaps could it be the need to encourage one another? Anyone want to take a stab at it?
You might be surprised. The second most frequent one another principle is this. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We're not talking about one obscure reference. No. It's written by two apostles, in five different letters, encompassing dozens of congregations, in several different countries. Four times Paul urges his readers to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” He has to tell the Corinthian church in both of his letters to them. I guess they weren't a very warm and welcoming congregation. In Peter's first letter written to the churches of Asia Minor he calls them to greet one another with a kiss of love.
And yet we feel free to totally ignore this command. We're not a liberal congregation that picks and chooses which parts of the Bible we follow. We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. So why do we dare ignore this teaching? What is a holy kiss or a kiss of love anyway? What is the real intent of this command, and how do we faithfully fulfill it in the church today? We will try to answer these questions from Romans 16. So please turn in your Bibles to Romans 16.
The ancients may have had limited ways in which they could greet one another, but today we have more ways to keep in touch than ever before. We have landlines, cell phones, and Skype. We have text-messages, instant messages, Facebook messages and in big cities we even have bike messengers. We have snail mail, air-mail, and email. With all of this you might think we would be the most relational people in the history of the world, with strong personal connections. Yet one of the phenomena of our modern age is that people feel more isolated and disconnected than ever. As Pink Floyd asked repeatedly in their album The Wall, “Is there anybody out there?” That album is a masterpiece of loneliness. There's a reason why that album remains perennially popular with every new generation of college students because it so effectively communicates the angst and isolation so many young adults feel. I was talking to a group of college kids who were telling me what a genius album that was. They sounded just like my peers twenty-five years ago. We are alone in a crowd.
Could it be that in this tiny little nugget of New Testament teaching that we happily skim across that there is cure to our isolation? Might this be a sign that points us to the answer of our aloneness?
The Emphasis is on Greet, not Kiss