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Summary: Paul makes a distinction when he says to salute the women with a holy kiss; not a horror or a hollow – but a holy kiss!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

“Salute Our Women”

Text: Romans 16: 1 – 3

Today message is the final part of a two part series designed to provide a response to our women’s month theme: Union Women: United in Spirit, Strength and Service. Why, because they are gifts from God.

My objective is to outline seven characteristics of Women who are Gift from God. Last Sunday we identified four of those characteristics that where found in the Old Testament personality of Mrs. Job: forceful, frugal, faithful, and fruitful.

In saluting our women, our mothers, the text informs us that it is proper to salute them with a holy kiss. A holy kiss is a philos sign. It’s an endearing symbolic touching of cheeks that communicates that our minds, hearts, and spirits are joined together. The actual holy kiss is the touching of your right cheek to another’s right cheek. The significance of touching on the right side is that in the mind of the ancients, you wore your sword on the left side. It was felt that left handed persons where infirmed, but right handed persons communicated strength. Your enemies you seated on your left side which enabled you to draw your sword with your right hand and aggressively attack if necessary.

Your friends you seated on your right side which created an awkward position to attack and therefore you had to feel very comfortable with those seated to your right side. So significant is the right side that Jesus is seated on the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

The symbolic holy kiss is the touching of right sides of the cheeks which also creates a symbolic touching of heart to heart and breast to breast. This was seen as the ultimate greeting among Christians during the days of the early church formation with Paul.

If the claim was that you where a Christian, when you met with another you greeted with a holy kiss; regardless of rank, social status, community position, racial or ethnic background, or gender. The holy kiss along with the sign of the cross and the fish were identifying signs of the early Christians.

The power of the symbol of the holy kiss creates an encounter with another that causes one to speak, to touch, to slow down and to greet another. That is so important in our fast paced lives. The symbol causes us to slow down and share time with our Christian neighbor. It causes you to get to know one another.

Christian encounters like that can change lives. The holy kiss symbolizes acceptance. It places one another on equal terms.

You’ll find the five scriptural references to the command by Paul to great one another with a holy kiss: in Romans, I and II Corinthians, I Peter, and I Thessalonians.

From these references we learn three things from the idea of a holy kiss:

1. The importance of touch in a spiritual dimension

2. The significance of knowing and remembering names

3. The consequence of speaking to another

Allow me to be clear, the saluting of Christians with a holy kiss was not confined to gender, rank, status, or position. The saluting of Christians with a holy kiss was symbolic of their love for Jesus Christ.

The problem we must face is that a kiss among supposed Christians may not always be holy. Sometimes a kiss can bring horror. That’s what made the kiss by Judas of Jesus so distasteful. Above and beyond the deception and deceit; one must understand that Judas took a symbol of endearment and transformed it in to an act of rebuke.

Mix messages, confusing signals, deceptive practices are not acts of a Christian. And, the early church understood that it is better to establish in the beginning of the relationship where everyone stands.

I had the experience of traveling to South Korea and spent some time with the people. As I understand their customs they utilize the initial greeting exchange to establish their relationship with two important elements that are critical to their culture: 1) who is the eldest, 2) giving respect.

In their greeting they establish through bowing the lowest who is the elder and the one who is the younger. The younger in that culture must always give respect to the elder.

We have so much to learn. Respect in our culture does not come because of age or seniority. Respect in our culture; if it does come, unfortunately comes from status or wealth. We take the onus off of the individual and place it upon things.

The early church in the days of Paul knew the importance of practicing what you preached; to borrow from Barry White.

If you are a Christian you should act like a Christian every where you go. And, being a Christian in that day and time was dangerous. You were an enemy of the state. So Christians had to be careful in their interactions with each other. To believe in Jesus Christ was possibly a death sentence; therefore your faith had to be secure.

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