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What Does it Mean to Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss?

Many churches have a time of greeting at some point in their service. This can range from awkward to inviting.

At some of these churches people merely shake hands and mumble a rote greeting. Other congregations actually make eye contact and smile as they greet one another. And at a few places, a meaningful connection begins.

One of the 52 churches we visited carried this to an extreme. The minister told us to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” It was a bit creepy, marking one of my more uncomfortable moments that year.

Fortunately, few people attended that Sunday, so the number of holy kisses we received was minimal.

I know this is biblical, with Paul mentioning it four times. But I don’t really know what it means. Even after experiencing it, I can’t describe it, except for creepy. And Paul doesn’t explain it or offer instructions; he just says to do it. But we can infer a few things.

Church: Each time Paul mentions holy kiss, it’s in a letter to a church, so it must be just for the church community. I take this to imply that outsiders (or in our case, visitors) are not included.

Intimate: A kiss is an intimate sign of affection. Since the context is church, we might want to dismiss a holy kiss as being an act of physical intimacy, instead understanding it as spiritual intimacy.

Holy: Something sacred or hallowed.

This implies a holy kiss is a sacred act of spiritual intimacy for a church community, but I still don’t know how to do it.

[Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26]

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at https://peterdehaan.com.