1 Corinthians 16:20 is one of four verses where Paul mentions the Ďholy kissí. The other verses are Romans 16:16; 2 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26.
The holy kiss was a greeting that was very familiar to the first Christians. 1 Peter 5:14 mentions its purpose. It was an expression of love between Christians.
We have a brief description of it in Acts 20:37. There, the church leaders of Ephesus were saying goodbye to Paul for the last time. Each man in turn hugged Paul and kissed him.
In many countries today, such a greeting would seem a strange way to behave. In fact, it could offend people. It is only natural for people to have ideas about what is right and proper behaviour (11:14-15). Paul taught Christians not to follow customs that may offend people.
However, in many countries near the Mediterranean Sea, such a kiss does not offend. Men frequently greet their male friends and relatives with a kiss on the cheek. Similarly, women greet female friends and relatives in this manner.
Jesus mentioned such a kiss, between father and son, in Luke 15:20. In fact, it seems that Jesus and his disciples (special students) greeted each other in this manner. Certainly, Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss in Mark 14:45.
Of course, Judasís kiss was not sincere. Really Judas was kissing Jesus as a sign, to hand Jesus over to his enemies (Mark 14:44). That incident teaches an important lesson, both about kisses and about other acts to express love. Love must first be an attitude in a personís heart; a person shows love by his actions to help someone else. Even a kiss does not really express love if there is no love in the personís heart.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.