I really appreciate John Piper’s take on the holy kiss:
I was also a little surprised by it, but I probably shouldn’t be because the nice thing about Piper is that he is a Bible-guy through and through, and doesn’t just flippantly shrug off Biblical commands. It’s great.
Totally agree on brotherly affection, most needed.
Paul doesn’t root the holy kiss in three arguments from creation, like he does the headcover.
It’s also, afaik, not something church history has kept (please correct me)
One last item, in the Jewish culture of his day, a kiss might be appropriate between brothers, but highly inappropriate between a man/woman. That’s why the women baptized the women, men and women didn’t touch.
Not saying it wasn’t societal norms. Important thing in church is to trump public norms with family norms. It’s why I fought against translating “brothers” by “Christian friends” as I saw galley proofs of coming NLT back in nineties. (1st ed went with “Christian friends.”) It’s why we started hugging and kissing in our congregation. It’s why for ten to fifteen years we’ve had home fellowship groups (most every Lord’s Day) with 95% participation rate by congregants. It’s why we started a graveyard where we can carry our loved one out of the service to the committal and burial. It’s why we express our love to one another verbally and constantly. Expressions of tenderness and a whole host of other simple commitments we have are aimed at copying what we see in Scripture, especially with the Apostle Paul. Scripture teaches God’s people are family to one another, and that family of the waters of baptism is permanent and important to a degree blood families can never rise to separate from the waters of baptism.
Head coverings worn by women in worship, ball caps removed by men in worship, kneeling during the pastoral prayer, lifting hands in musical prayer and praise, the holy kiss, the holy hug, “I love you,” are all Biblical and that’s the end of it. I assume we all know Calvin considered lifting hands normative. Love,
I’d (respectfully) add that, in my opinion, it would be wise to keep those older categories in place. In other words, those Christians saw each other as brothers and sisters, but a man would still not touch another man’s wife (hug or whatever).
There is certainly no command here, I’m not saying that, but only an encouragement for what I see as wisdom. The ancient world’s Billy graham rule. Let the women embrace the women, the men embrace the men.
Do you have any equipment to support this, the way Roman Catholic churches have kneelers attached to their pews? I went to a church years ago that invited congregants to kneel for silent prayer each week, and with normal pews, everyone turned and faced the back of the church with their arms/upper bodies on the seats of the pew. I liked kneeling, but facing backwards always seemed awkward to me. Suffice it to say, typical pews or rows of chairs are not well-suited to kneeling facing front.
For the record, every Lutheran and Anglican church house I’ve ever visited had kneelers built into their pews. It’s part of the heritage/legcy of catholic (note the small “c,” please) worship in the West.
Now, in the East, where Orthodox (note the capital “o,” please) congregations maintain their Eastern legacy/heritage of worship), there are not only no pews, the congregants during prayer will prostrate themselves on the floor - also a fitting posture for prayer, especially prayers of confession of sin, or prayers of praise (cf. Rev. 1:17).
I can think of cultures where this discussion would not be an issue, at all - Russian, Italian, Arab, to name three. In terms of physical expressions, I once heard an Italian who was preaching tell us that the easiest way to get an Italian to shut up was, “tie his hands behind his back” .
True 'dat! And you could easily add more closer to home.
When I first landed in Vienna to take up the pastorate of the largest English speaking congregation in the city, I quickly noticed several related behaviors between men - such as their strolling the streets in pairs holding hands. These were, I soon discovered, ordinary heterosexual men in company with close friends. this was one of the ways their friendship was signified and maintained, along with t heir use of the second-person familiar inflections of verbs.
On the Sunday I preached my inaugural sermon, afterwards I was meeting and greeting folks in the space where we were wprshipping. I looked across that space to see a man easily in his mid-sixties moving rapidly through the crowd in the company of one of the congregation’s elders. They seemed to have a bee-line on me! And, sure enough, as the stranger arrived he grasped me by both shoulders and planted three kisses on my face - right, left, right.
Odd behavior for a stranger? Well, you see, we were Christians. I was his new pastor. His greeting was both an expression of joy, respect, and the bond we shared in our common Lord even if we had previously never met. He was, also, Polish.
My father, on his first visit to Vienna while we lived there, thought the city was full of gay men. Even after an explanation from me, he never got over the impression. Notions of appropriate behavior are not easily dissolved.