Bibel & Theologie

Grüßt alle Brüder mit einem heiligen Kuß

Auf der Seite der Gospel Coalition fand ich kürzlich einen bemerkenswerten Artikel. Es geht um den Aufruf zum heiligen Kuss im Neuen Testament.

We are right to be cautious. In touching, just as in talking and looking, much can go wrong. But rejecting biblical imperatives poses danger, too. The New Testament “holy kiss” actually stands against many of the touch-corruptions in our day. What is a holy kiss? It’s a culturally appropriate, morally chaste, physical expression of love for other believers. It’s a hand on a shoulder, a warm smile with a hand-clasp, or a friendly hug—a touch that publicly acknowledges our bond with other members of Christ’s body. It’s not just a kiss, it’s a holy kiss, a kiss reclaimed from a fallen world and repurposed for the glory of God.

And it’s not optional. Pastor A. N. Martin notes that in 2 Corinthians 13:12, the holy kiss comes at the end of a list of imperatives that we would unanimously consider Christian obligations: rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, greet one another with a holy kiss. One of the essential marks of the body of Christ is physical affection.

We might be tempted to think of the holy kiss as a practice for a particular first-century culture, too fraught with issues for our day. But this imperative covers the wide diversity of the New Testament church. Paul commands it, and Peter commands it, too. It is required of the Jewish-background diaspora recipients of Peter’s epistle, and also of the Roman and Thessalonian churches—bodies largely composed of Gentile converts. Twice, the holy kiss is commanded for the Corinthian church, a church so beleaguered by sexual impropriety that you’d think the apostle Paul would ban touch altogether.

In many ways, this requirement best guards against perversion. “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss,” reads 1 Thessalonians 5:26 (emphasis mine). The holy kiss is not subject to personal choice and individual preference. Touch in the church is not offered to someone we especially like as a sign that he or she has been singled out for intimate attention. The holy kiss is not exclusive. In contrast to the man in James 2:2-4 who tells the rich man to sit here and the poor man to stand over there, we must not show partiality in physical nearness to our brothers. We don’t touch only the people of our choosing; we touch the people of God’s covenant choosing. We give a holy kiss to all the brothers.

And the holy kiss does not accomplish goals of our personal choosing. It is not to the end of asserting power or manipulating someone into sealing a business deal—or scam, as Libresco notes. It is not for our own physical pleasure. (Treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:2.) Instead, the holy kiss is what Martin calls “visible, physical confirmation of mutual love.”

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