When God began to give me a family, I knew that I wanted it to be an affectionate family. That was easy in the beginning since I wanted to locks me some lips on my wifeses. Then a son came along and we didn’t get to keep him, so by the time second son, and him being the cutest kid when he’s not pulling on my last nerve, there was a double portion of hugs and kisses and ‘I love you’s already stored up.
It’s just been natural.
Then God pulled me aside one day and pointed out at the saints of every nation, tribe, and tongue, and said, “Whosoever doeth the will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother.” Suddenly all this talk about, “they shall know you by your love”, came into closer, more real perspective. We aren’t to love other disciples of Messiah just because it’s the “Christian” thing to do, but because we are family.
Now growing up, my family wasn’t so affectionate (but that’s changing), but when I look at God’s idea of what a family ought to look like (the father loves the son, the son honors the mother, the only thing closer than a brother is the truest friend). I mean think about it, in the Song of Solomon, the groom calls his bride, sister, and the bride calls her beloved, brother. Look at how the patriarchs kissed their sons, and wept in each other’s embrace. They lived in a close, emotionally open state with each other (not always, but when things were more right). Look at Jonathan and David. You just get this sense that God intended family to be intimately close.
I haven’t seen the family like that–except maybe in glimpses–but I believe it’s what we ought to aim for. So many of our family problems seem like they would be solved by openly affectionate familial relations.
So then it seems strange to me, that the “family” we will spend eternity with is reserved to seeing each other once a week, only in their Sunday bests (which they hurry home to get out of), greeted with a handshake and occasional hug from a person who has been assigned it as a job, a family generally kept at a distance.
As I look at my natural desire to shower my family with affection, and God’s ideal family, and even the way God talks about his feelings for His family (prodigal son anyone? Messiah’s love for the congregation is the model for a husband’s love for a bride?), I can’t help but think that if I would readily kiss and hug and be generally touchy with my nearest family who–God forbid–might not be my family forever, why am I so slow to show affection to my eternal family?
The idea of the holy kiss talked about by Paul has become nearly extinct and weird, at least in America. Even though, Yeshua was offended that Simon had not given him a kiss of greeting. We say, that was cultural and it would be weird now, but again, don’t you kiss your sons and daughters? Your mother? And at least sometimes, your father? If we never did the former, then it would make sense that we neglect the latter. But since we do it for some and not for others, what we’re really saying is that our brothers and sisters in Messiah are not really our brothers and sisters.
Now don’t mistake me. I do think kissing anyone “outside” my family is weird. Awkwardly so. But does that mean it shouldn’t be done? Is this an awkwardness to be protected or overcome? Let me ask it this way, if Yeshua comes up to you and gives you a kiss, are things going to be weird between you and God?
And think of the practical relational benefits. If you kissed as an intentional show of love, don’t you suppose it would be harder to carry a grudge with your fellow congregant? It would be easier not to kiss than to kiss hypocritically–in my opinion at least. Just think about the parents who force fighting siblings to hug until they love each other again. Either could be done wrongly, but that’s with someone who already chooses to do wrong in their hearts, and the same could be said of any form of affection, whether in a church context or not.
I think the act of kissing encourages the disciple to seriously consider their relationship with this person. Sure it could be rout, but given what we know about germs, we may be too smart to do it thoughtlessly. So how can I kiss this person and not really care about them? How can I kiss this person when I know I have unforgiveness toward them? Or in reverse, if I kiss one person and then don’t kiss another, why didn’t I kiss? Am I showing partiality? Am I judging based on appearance? Has something come between me and them? In most churches I’ve seen, we’re so reserved that if someone was being unwelcoming or cold, I could only know by guessing at their tone and eyes. But if the norm were a kiss, the breach would be far more evident.
It just seems to me that greater good would be done by an openly and relentlessly affectionate body of Messiah, than damage would be done by weirdness.
But just in case you are weirded out, know I only do this when you come to my house for fellowship. I don’t think it’s my job to set the relationship boundaries at your house–though I’m a little gray at church. But think about it, and ask yourself whether this weirdness about being affectionate with someone, who loves the same person who died for you, isn’t the real weirdness.
It just doesn’t make sense to not have a completely irrational, awkwardly close relationship with someone who is bound to you by God’s blood and spirit.