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. Folks at 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.