Greet One Another
This summer, my family and I got to go back to our home country of the UK for the first time since the pandemic began. We visited all sorts of different places, like Dublin, Oxford, St Andrews and Edinburgh, taking in historic Christian sites, like Glendalough, Iona, and St Andrews Cathedral, alongside studying contemporary issues facing the church such as gender identity, critical race theory, and cancel culture. But undoubtedly, the highlight of the trip was being able to see our UK family again. It has been a long two-and-a-half years, and the reunion was just as sweet as you might have expected. There is just something different about being with your blood relatives. Am I right?
And this was brought home to us at one point when Rachel was with her cousin. Her cousin has children, some of whom Rachel had never met. And during their time together, her cousin’s kids kept coming up to her and hugging her. It got to a point where it was a bit excessive, so Rachel said something. She said, “You don’t have to keep hugging me. I’m kind of a stranger.” To which one of them replied, “Oh no. You are not a stranger. You are my family.”
There is something different about being with your family. And in particular, there is something different about physical contact with your family. We all know the pain that the pandemic brought with respect to physical distancing. Grandparents unable to hug their grandkids, single people physically isolated from everyone, and those who were immunocompromised having to sustain it for even longer than anyone else. And by now, we all know the joy of finally reuniting with family and friends. We can remember the feeling of that first embrace, when after months of not touching, we were finally allowed to hug.
Greeting each other with a physical embrace is a vital part of what it means to be family and friends. Without it, those relationships felt lacking in something. We know that now. But what if I told you this same reality is true not only in our biological families but also in our spiritual family—the Church. That’s the message we find in the one another passages we are going to be looking at today.
Welcome to Chapel Hill! My name is Ellis, and I am one of the pastors here, and it is a joy to be back with you all in person after a two-month Sabbatical. Thank you for the gift that has been to me and my family, and I cannot wait to share more with you about what God has been teaching me during this season. Today, we are finishing our ‘One Another’ series, talking about what it means to be the church. Over the past several weeks we have heard about forgiving, encouraging, accepting, honoring, praying for, serving, admonishing, living in harmony with, and caring for one another. As Pastor Mark mentioned at the beginning of this journey, out of the dozens of “one another” occurrences in the New Testament, the most common “one another” is to love one another. But do you know what is number two in terms of appearances? It is this: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
This command occurs no less than five times in the New Testament. To put this in perspective, the New Testament only commands believers to fear God four times, to honor your father and mother four times, to take up your cross four times, to love your enemies three times, to love God with all your heart three times, to do to others as you would have them do to you two times, to heal the sick two times, and to not lie only once. But to greet one another with a holy kiss, is found five times in the New Testament. So why didn’t the greeters give you all a kiss on the way in today?
Well, that’s what we’re going to explore today. And my hope, is that by the end of today’s message, you will see that we have a God who greets us with a holy kiss, in spite of the fact that we give him the kiss of betrayal. And that he encourages us to warmly embrace our own Christian brothers and sisters, that all might know they are a beloved child of God, and a part of his family—the Church.
So, let me read to you our Scripture passage this morning. Here it is: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Say it with me: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
When my mum gave birth to me, my dad decided to adopt a practice that was completely foreign to his family. It was something his own father had never done. But it was something he had seen his father-in-law do to every one of his children, both sons and daughters. My father decided that he would kiss his children as a sign of love and belonging. So, from my earliest days, I remember my dad kissing me, every time he would see me, and every time he would say goodbye. It’s a practice I have incorporated into my family life, too. Every time I say hello or goodbye to my children, I kiss them. Usually on the cheek but sometimes on the forehead. It’s my way of saying to them: you belong. You are a part of our family. And I love you.