Paul mentions the ‘holy kiss’ in three other places also: Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. It became a usual greeting in the first Christian churches. The custom continues in the churches in some countries near the Mediterranean sea today. The men kiss each of the other men in turn. The women kiss each of the other women. Men do not kiss women; and they do not kiss on the lips. Rather, they kiss by the side of the head.
This custom did not begin with the first Christians. It was a usual custom in that region. People would kiss their relatives and their close friends in that manner. It was polite behaviour to kiss a guest like that*. With such a kiss, Judas handed Jesus over to his enemies*.
The purpose of the kiss was to express love. Of course, no physical act can really prove that someone loves another person. Love is an attitude of our hearts. It shows itself in the desire to help and to show kindness to other people. Without that desire, any physical act to show love has no real meaning.
However, the fact that someone refuses to greet another person does have a real meaning. It means that they have a bitter attitude towards that other person; perhaps they hate that person.
Clearly Paul was urging the Christians to follow this custom for a definite reason. There had been some very serious arguments in this church in the recent past. However, Christians should love each other* and they must forgive each other*. Of course such greetings do not really show love. However, a friendly greeting can be a way to say ‘I forgive you’. That was something that Corinth’s Christians very much needed to do.
Next part: The saints (13:13)
* See complete article for these Bible references.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.