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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Greet each other with a holy kiss

"Greet each other with a holy kiss"

When I still lived in America, I spent quite a bit of my time there living in Southern California. During that time, when I was in my mid-20's, I had a close friend who attended a very conservative Amish-type church. This church was a part of a group of similar churches located in the SW part of America and the church had its roots if I remember correctly in the German tradition. 

On several occasions, I had the pleasure of visiting the church and worshipping with the community.Upon arrival and before the service commenced, they gave you food to eat. You would sit down at a type of lunch counter they had in the church and have a sandwich before the service. 

These dear people were very conservative Biblically. The women kept their hair covered, wore very conservative plain clothing, no make-up or jewelry or the like. Men wore very simple conservative suits and simple clothes.It was a community of believers really seeking to live out the Christian life as they understood it.
When it came time to enter the service, we would go inside and then the men and women would be separated and sat on separate sides of the church.Then, the service would begin with the preaching elder standing up and he would then randomly open a King James Version of the Bible to any section of Scripture and start to give a message ad-hoc on whatever text he turned to.

Everything seemed fine, until ....

Everything about the church and the people seemed totally fine, but then something happened which absolutely caused me to do a double take.

We had arrived at the church early and had gone in to eat something before others, but when we were done and were moving to the sanctuary, I saw something that caused the eye brows to be raised, and not slightly. I was walking by two grown men who proceeded to kiss each other on the mouth!

Now, let's be clear. They did so in a very kind of dignified way and they sort of closed their lips and just kind of "kissed" each other very quickly and simply. It was did not involve any other body contact at all, just the simple "kiss," but it was two men kissing each other on the mouth!

"What did I just see?"

Upon seeing this, I sort of turned to my friend and said: "I just saw those two guys sort of kiss each other? What in the heck is going on with that?" Then he told me, "Oh yeah, it's no big deal, they are just following Paul command to "Greet each other with a holy kiss." (This is no small matter either because it is mentioned in the New Testament four times - Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26)

But I came back and said: "But, they are dudes and they are sort of kissing each other in a very kind of creepy way?" He said, "Well, to them, that is how they have been taught to do it and it is perfectly fine and in fact, it is "holy." 

Now, note that only the men greeted each other in this fashion. No male/female kissing of any kind took place at all. 

But this example points to a very important issue of how culture shapes how we look at the Biblical text.According to the tradition of this church, this is how their founding community interpreted these verses and the way in which the "kiss" was undertaken was on the lips between male members of the church. 

A more authentic approach according to what Paul was talking about 

Now, I think that most people will admit that people here in Israel are probably closer to the way that things were done in ancient times by sheer geography. It should not be unreasonable to think that after two thousand years, the people who live in Jerusalem today probably have a closer connection to the ancient Biblical traditions than do people living in Southern California, everything else being equal. A good example of this is as follows.

Recently, I was on my way to Jerusalem and as I waited for a bus to come, I saw a car stop in front of me and a young man about 18 got out and greeted another young man right in front of me. He did so using the traditional Arab “kiss”, a cheek to cheek approach. Generally speaking, you find men doing it to relatives or friends at special occasions or when they have not seen each other in some time. 

Normally, the parties will “kiss” the other person's cheek two or three times, but for relatives or very special events like weddings or the like, you will see them “kissing” each other more than two or three times. Such was the case of these two young men who looked as if they were not related, but that they had not seen each other in some time. I heard what they were talking about and one boy told the other that he was going to visit a nearby village and his friend insisted very vigorously that he allow him to take him to his destination. Then, they both got in the car and left. 

So, now how does all of this relate to the issue that serves as the heading for this short section: “Greet each other with a holy kiss?” The point is, we find this phrase used by Paul four times. These are: Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12 and I Thessalonians 5:26. Now isn’t it interesting that Paul encouraged these Gentile churches to greet each other in this fashion. Certainly, they did touch each other in the process and more importantly, Paul himself must have been “greeting people with a holy kiss”; that is, he was physically touching Gentile people! Note in I Corinthians 16:19, he even mentions “Aquila and Prisca (a woman)" and then he urges them to greet each other in this fashion.

Now, we can get into long discussions about the issues of family purity and what may have been taking place, but what is clear is that people interpret Paul very differently based upon their own experience and what they think he means with the phrase "Greet each other with a holy kiss" and to some people, it means that in the 21st century, some Christian communities in America have men kissing each other on the mouth and here in the Middle East, referring to the same text, you have people "kissing" each other cheek to cheek.

In my view, I am more in favor of the Middle Eastern model.
Now, let's ask ourselves to compare this issue to that of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking?
Here we have to ask ourselves? How do we understand the texts in Proverbs? Do we understand them according to the way St. Paul did (the Middle Eastern way)? Or are we off in a kind of late European way of understanding?

We have an example of what Paul thought of the rod in fact when he said:

"What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" (I Corinthians 4:21)

We really have to search our hearts and ask ourselves do we really know what the Bible means today and can we really be sure that we are just not like two dudes kissing each other on the lips? 

This is a reasonable question that all advocating corporal punishment/smacking/spanking need to ask themselves because the stakes are so much higher than some guy seeing something take place and feeling a bit odd.

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/



Elizabeth Battle said...

It's so important to learn the whole truth of God...the Scriptures in proper context. Otherwise, we end up with those weird, legalistic traditions like the kissing bit...and spanking with a "rod."

Valencia said...

This is cool!