Monday, February 20, 2017
“Salute one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16a).
“Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:20).
“Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13:12).
“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (1 Thessalonians 5:26).
“Greet one another with a kiss of charity (love)” (1 Peter 5:14).
Four times Paul commands “a holy kiss.” Peter joins in with a “kiss of love.” The first century church was made up of slave owners and slaves. For a slave owner to greet a slave with a holy kiss erased the social distinction, the discrimination, and partiality! They were brothers in Christ! Each would greet the other without any attitude of condescending. Can you imagine a slave owner doing that in an 1850 Sunday assembly with another brother’s slaves as well as his own? When Paul wrote to Philemon about his run-away slave he said, “Onesimus is not really a slave anymore. No, he is more than a slave; he is a dear brother – especially to me! But, this is even more true for you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. If you think of me as your partner, accept Onesimus as you would accept me.” (Philemon 1:16-17 IEB).
It is interesting how some translations miss this “kiss” and make a substitute. The “holy” part is kept, but the “kiss” isn’t. The Living Bible says what we practice, “Shake hands warmly with each other,” leaving out both the “kiss” and the “holy” part! The New Living Translation is more generic with, “Greet each other in Christian love”? The Message changes it from “a holy kiss” to hugs with, “Holy embraces all around!” From the KJV to the NIV, “a holy kiss” and “a kiss of love” remains! Yet, have we lost the significance which is embedded in this command?
We think nothing of rewriting this passage to suit our cultural customs. We honor The Living Bible translation rather than the Greek, KJV, or NIV! We substitute “a holy hand shake” for “a holy kiss.” Vine states that the commanded kiss was to be holy. It was to be “free from anything inconsistent with their calling as saints . . . There was to be an absence of . . . disrespect.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words). Is that what “a holy handshake” means today?
Romans 16:16a does not stand alone. The second part of that verse is very familiar. “The churches of Christ salute you.” How? With “a holy kiss!” The first part of Romans 16:16 is a command, not once, but five times in the New Testament. The second part is not a command, just a greeting statement. Yet, we substitute “handshake” for “kiss” in the first part, but are upset if anything is changed in the second half.
Young’s Living Translation and Darby’s keep the kiss, but translate the second section as, “the assemblies of Christ.” The International English Bible gives us, “All the groups that belong to Christ greet you.” In emphasizing the second part of Romans 16:16, have we missed the lesson of the first seven words of that verse?
How would we feel about greeting a homeless person with a holy kiss at the Sunday assembly? What about that person that is always avoided by most others? How about that member that seems to major in being obnoxious? What about the one you just don’t like?
“Greet one another with a holy kiss”? You’ve got to be kidding!?