Thanks to my friends who read and commented on yesterday's post. Before anything else is said, this post is not about the inevitable boundaries, restrictions and rebukes that come along with love. That will come later this week. Now to the post.
Peter and Paul both make references to it in the New Testament. Paul four times and Peter once. Their call to "greet one another with a holy kiss," is so bizarre to me, but so conversational to them. I can't imagine walking up to a friend and being like "Hey dude" and then just planting one on him. Gross. But it was totally common in the early church. It wasn't homo-erotic or European. It was honestly, a beautiful custom.
I've done some research on the "holy kiss." We see it in Acts and we also see it abused when Judas betrays Jesus. Many of the early church fathers practiced it and many in the Eastern Orthodox faith still practice it. Its obviously been abused and even made fashionable by many in the modern erudite western world. So what's the deal with the holy kiss? What does it mean?
The Glossary of (Eastern) Orthodox Terminology says that the "kiss of peace" or "holy kiss" is a sign of unity and fellowship between one believer and another. It can also be viewed as a sign of reconciliation or equality, reverence or respect. All things we need so desperately in the Western Church.
I'm obviously not going to start practicing the "Holy Kiss" with anybody other than my wife, but I think there are some really profound things that we can learn from it.
From the Holy Kiss we find that we must lead with love. When I stand face to face to another human being. Eye to Eye. There is a sense of mutuality there that cannot be denied. You are human. I am human. On some plain, we are the same. I may not tolerate or endorse everything you do, but I love you because you are like me, created in God's image. It is also undeniable, that the holy kiss is a sign of affection, of unconditional love between two people. Before any words are said. Before anything else happens. Before our differences are drug into the light. I lead with love. I lead with affection. Its where we start. You don't have to earn it. Its yours from the beginning.
I recall Donald Miller writing about God in one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz. One of the great conundrums he had with God was that he wondered if God really liked him. The love side he got, especially the tough love side, but the like, he struggled with.
I think our world, both Christian and Not, need a proverbial holy kiss from us in the Church. (You don't need to correct me here. I know the holy kiss was between believers) We have to understand that people need to feel like we genuinely like and love them. That we have real affection in our hearts for them from the start. They don't have to do anything, we love them because God does. We might not agree. We may stand in total opposition, but before we get to rebuking and boundary setting and truth sharing could we just step back, set the example, recognize our common humanity, lower our walls and open up the lines of communication by loving first?
[God, increase my capacity to love first. Amen.]