Gary and I attended a revival meeting one night years ago in the Ohio countryside. The preacher was a man who had founded a quasi-Mennonite sect. My friend was exploring fellowship with the group. The meeting was in the top floor of a large barn converted into a chapel. It was filled with sincere, humble men seeking God who took the Bible seriously.
Most of the men there that night were bearded. My friend Gary wore a full beard. I was clean-shaven. At the end of the service Gary and I went up to greet the speaker. Because Gary was bearded, the speaker must have mistaken him for a member of the group, so instead of giving him a firm handshake, he greeted him with a holy kiss.
There are five references in the New Testament to this practice:
“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16, ESV)
“All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:20, ESV)
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:12, ESV)
“Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.” (1 Thessalonians 5:26, ESV)
“Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” (1 Peter 5:14, ESV)
The Mennonite brother was serious about taking the Bible literally and I respect him for that. I don’t think we are expected to literally “greet one another with a holy kiss,” but I deeply believe that we are, in a way understood by our culture, to give a warm, sincere, pure and loving greeting to other brothers and sisters in the family of God. This may be more important that we think.
Peter said we are to “Love one another with a pure heart fervently.” People appreciate good music and helpful preaching and Bible teaching. These things are important. I’m sure a safe, convenient, comfortable building is important to a church. But deep in their souls, people crave human kindness, understanding, love. They need to experience divine love in a human form. Though we may not take this oft-repeated command literally, we should take it seriously and see to it that people who visit Bethel and those who make this their church home always receive a warm greeting and experience genuine love.
My friend Gary and I drove away from the meeting in silence for a mile or two. And then I said, “Gary, don’t worry, I’m not going to tell your wife about what happened tonight. Your secret is safe with me.”
February 16, 2020