“Hi, I’m Jake. Pleased to meet you!”
His tight muscular arms bulged from his well-worn t-shirt as he extended his right hand in greeting. His mask barely concealed a grey-white grisly beard that bounced as he spoke. His expression was unmistakable, captured by his twinkling eyes.
“Uh…hi!” I fumbled.
I had to think twice and hesitated for a few seconds before I awkwardly extended my hand in greeting. I was embarrassed by my reaction, preoccupied over social distancing. He was the first person outside of my immediate family that I had touched in over six months…and I miss it.
Growing up in Hawaii, hugging and embracing are part of our culture. When I came to the mainland for college, I was introduced to many cultures that do not readily express their affection to one another with broad physical gestures. At times, my actions even offended others. I realized the customs that were inculcated into my upbringing would have to be altered or modified as my world expanded beyond the islands. It was not easy and it took many years before I did not have to consciously rethink my actions with each greeting, substituting a handshake for my usual embrace.
With the COVID pandemic, it is startling to see how in such a brief period of time, my behavior has radically changed once again. These are necessary behaviors to mitigate or prevent the spread of the virus. However, an unwanted side effect is my growing reluctance for social interaction. God created us to need and rely upon one another. Both the Apostle Paul and Peter wrote of greeting one another with a holy kiss.
Greet one another with a holy kiss….
Romans 16:16 (NKJV)
While this could mean an actual physical kiss, it should be interpreted in the light of the entire Word of God. Like the resistance I encountered from different cultures, I must rethink what these words mean. The Apostle Peter provides God’s answer in another verse.
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…
1 Peter 3:8 (NKJV)
My intention to physically embrace others was always honorable but that did not mean it was acceptable for all. How, then, do I greet one another with a holy kiss? The key word is holy, separated and sanctified for God. God desires His creation to spiritually embrace one another. If I am not seeking to be compassionate, tenderhearted, and courteous, then my actions, however honorable my true intentions, will divide rather than unite. An embrace, whether physical or spiritual, must always be edifying and uplifting to everyone I meet.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.