By Pastor Glenn Pease
The story is told, and it could very well be true, of a Danish couple who decided to break off their engagement. "It is best I suppose that we give back each others letters," he said. She agreed, and replied, "We should at the same time return each others kisses." By the time they had finished their exchange, they agreed to renew their engagement. There is something about a kiss that does more than merely bring about a union of the lips. It has the power to also bring about the union of lives. Kissing is a matter of the spirit as well as of the body, and that is why kissing is never to be taken lightly. Treating the kiss as a minor matter has led many into relationships where they very carelessly tamper with the deep inner being of others.
The Italians say, "A kiss is like a grain of dust which anyone who would be rid of it can wash away." The Germans looking deeper respond, "A kiss may indeed be washed away, but the fire in the heart cannot be quenched." Kissing is so directly linked with love that to engage in it without love is certain to open the door to lust. A kiss awakened Sleeping Beauty, and it can awaken sleeping lust in anyone. There are many different kinds of kisses, and we will be looking at the most significant of them. The true romantic kiss is to be reserved for that one you desire to one with you on all levels.
What is a kiss? Why it is this-
It is the cement, it is the glue
Of love that makes me one with you.
There are all kinds of definitions of a kiss. Scientifically it is the ovicular juxtaposition of the oral protrusion of the outer cavity. From the negative view, it is the mutual interchange of salivary bacteria. More romantic is the view that a kiss is a secret told to the mouth instead of the ear. More passionate is the definition of Paul Verlaine who defines the kiss, "As the fiery accompaniment on the key board of the teeth of the lovely songs which love sings in a burning heart." However you look at it, one thing is sure, kissing is a pleasant reminder that two heads are better than one.
The Song of Songs begins with the problem of a deep desire for kissing, but only one head. The Shulamite girl longs for the kisses of her lover, but she is separated from him. The Song does not begin calmly and build to a climax, but it begins with a burst of passionate frustrated love. "O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!" When people have been separated for a long time, and then reunited, the first thing they do is kiss. Lovers often take the kiss for granted until they are separated, and then they realize how much they long to embrace and kiss the object of their love. The Shulamite can think of nothing better than the kisses of her lover. She dearly misses her lovers kisses.
With kisses of his mouth, said she,
Let him, now reconciled, kiss me.
Thy love, said she, when it is mine,
Is better than the choicest wine.
Anyone who has ever been separated from a loved one can enter into the intense craving of this young girl, but the question is, what is the spiritual significance of her longing? There is a direct parallel to this romantic longing in the realm of the spirit. Many times the believer's soul feels separated from God, and longs for the good old days of close and loving communion. We sing, everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before, but in reality we know this is not so. Many days we can look back and long to return to a former day when our loves seemed sweeter and stronger, and when we sense the presence of Christ more intimately in our lives.
From a spiritual perspective this Song begins with an intense need for the lover of our souls to draw near, and give satisfaction to the longings of our heart. It is a lovers cry which reveals a desperate need to be loved. It is appropriate that this opening cry for love should come from the girl. Studies indicated that women feel the need to be loved more than men. Spiritually it is fitting as well, for the church, the Bride of Christ, feels the need for love more than does Christ. He is self-sufficient, and does not feel the loneliness or the hunger for love that we do as believers.
Believer's, like this lonely shepherd girl, cannot be happy and satisfied until they experience the kiss of the Shepherd. This was true for the Old Testament saints who looked for the coming of the Messiah. They looked at this lovers cry and said, that is us, Israel crying out to God to come down. We have been kissed by the mouth of Moses and the prophets, but we want the Messiah Himself, for this would be the very kiss of God.
A lady took her nephew to her church one Sunday. He had not been in church before, and was very observant. When the service was over, he was busting with excitement. He said, "Auntie-did you see God's kiss?" "Whatever do you mean by that?" she asked. "I saw it-God's kiss-on the window of the church. I make my kisses crooked when I write my letters, but God's kiss is straight up." Then she realized he was referring to the cross. It was no childish mistake. It was a profound theological insight. The cross was indeed the kiss of God. A kiss is a means of reconciliation, and that is what the cross was in God's plan of redemption. Is it just a coincidence, or is it providential that our symbol for a kiss is a cross? God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, is equivalent to saying, He so loved us that while we were yet sinners, He kissed us. He came to us with a kiss of peace and reconciliation. The cross is the greatest love symbol in the world, and to the Old Testament saints it was the fulfillment of their desire for the kiss of God.
For New Testament believers, the longing is for the Great Shepherd and Lover of our souls to come again. We can look back to the incarnation and the great love of Christ, but, like the Shulamite girl, it is the very love of the past that makes her long for more. One who has never known the joys of love, and the kisses of a lover, cannot crave for them, as can those who have already enjoyed them. The New Testament believer, therefore, has a deeper desire for union with Christ than did the Old Testament saints.
Religious love, like romantic love, varies in it's intensity from day to day, depending upon health, energy, and many circumstances. But when a Christian is feeling his best, he should long to be possessed by the love of Christ, and kissed into ecstasy by His indwelling presence. He should feel something of what the poet expresses:
Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Oh, knit my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there!
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am,
Lord, with Thy love my heart inflame.
Oh, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
The kiss has been called love's great artillery, and by the kiss of the cross our Shepherd lover defeated the divorce plan that Satan had set in motion, and He reconciled God and man. Sin still separates us, however, and we can still have lover's quarrels, and division, which leaves us feeling cut off from the love of Christ. In the spirit realm, as in the romantic, we need to learn to kiss and make up. In fact, Psa. 2 ends with this verse, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye parish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."
The kiss had a very religious significance all through Bible times. To kiss can mean to acknowledge one as Lord. The picture of kissing the Pope's foot, and kissing idols, goes way back in history, when the kiss had a religious meaning. Listen to what God said to Elijah in I Kings 19:18, "Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." To have kissed Baal was to have submitted to him as Lord. And so, to have kissed Christ is to have submitted to Him as Lord. Kissing the Son, therefore, is the only way to escape the wrath of God, and enjoy the romance of eternity. Kissing is a very serious religious matter.
Kissing and idolatry went hand in hand all through the Old Testament. Worshipers of the sun and moon would express their loyalty to these false deities by kissing their hands and pointing to the sun or moon. Job refers to this practice, and he denies he was ever guilty of it in Job 31:26-28. "If I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand; this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have been false to God above." If men do not kiss the true Lover of their souls, they will be kissing some deceiver. Idolatry is simply kissing a false lover. It is a giving of your souls affection to something, or someone, who cannot love and save your soul. The point is, religious kisses, like romantic ones, must be kept exclusive.
Men have always gone astray when they kissed any other than the one and only Lover of their soul. It fits the whole pattern of Old Testament history that Judas should betray Jesus with a kiss. God's people have always betrayed Him with a kiss. They offered their love to Him, but then went after other gods and kissed them as well. That is what Judas was doing. He kissed Jesus, but then longed to kiss the thirty pieces of silver that he got for betraying Him even more. True love keeps its kisses exclusively for the lover. Spurgeon wrote, "The kiss is a mark of worship; to kiss Christ is at the same time to recognize Him as God, and to pay Him divine worship." Those who never kiss the Son in this religious sense will never experience the love of God, and the salvation that comes because of it.
Because kissing had such a religious significance in ancient history, and in Biblical culture, it became a part of the every day life of the early Christians. Peter closes his first Epistle by writing, "Greet one another of the kiss of love." Paul in Rom. 16:16 writes, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." He says the same thing in I Cor. 16:20, and in II Cor. 13:12. Then in I Thess. 5:26 he writes, "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss." There was obviously a lot of kissing going on in the early churches, which is foreign to us to day. We still kiss in the church, but only after weddings, and even there you had better be careful. One guy said to another, "How did you get that black eye?" He said, "I kissed a bride after the wedding." "Why everyone does that," the other guy said, mystified. "Yeah," responded the injured man, "But this was two years after the wedding." Kissing the bride has to be timed right, or else. The New Testament seems to indicate, however, that the Bride of Christ was to be almost continually engaged in kissing one another as a form of greeting.
This practice has had quite a history. In the 13th century it was practiced in France where women kissed women, and the men kissed men. It developed in many areas that men would kiss women on the hand as a greeting. In England, in the 13th century, a special instrument was used to help the faithful obey Paul's command. It was a metal disc with a holy picture on it, and it was passed around the church for all to kiss. This did not prove to be very helpful as a kiss of peace, since it started a lot of quarrels as to who deserved the honor of kissing it first. It also led to youthful shenanigans in church, for the boys tried to sit next to pretty girls and kiss it after them. And old poem says,
I told the maid that she was fair,
I've kissed the Pax just after her.
The reformation abolished all this type of thing. The Greek church still practices the kiss of peace on Easter Sunday. Kissing as an act of respect and reverence was common in days past, but this is no longer the case. Men kissed each other all the time in Biblical days, and it was a normal part of life. In the middle ages, knights kissed before a duel,
just as boxers today shake hands before a fight. The hand shake has become to us what the kiss was to the early Christians. A hand shake today is equivalent to a holy kiss.
We ought not to think that the kiss is no longer important. A kiss has always been a sign of acceptance as well as reconciliation. Jacob and Esaw kissed when they met after a long separation. The father of the Prodigal Son kissed him when he returned. The kiss that expresses love and acceptance should never be out of style. A pastor told of an 83 year old woman who had been bed ridden for over 20 years. He visited her, and when he rose to leave he felt a flow of affection go through him. He bent over and kissed her on the cheek. A look of amazement came to her face, and she said, "Why, I'm not ugly after all. I'm not ugly after all." The kiss gave her assurance of being accepted. That kiss was truly a holy kiss, and a kiss of peace. It was Christ expressing His love and acceptance through a member of His body.
The desire for acceptance makes kisses very important on the romantic level also. Studies show that if a man comes home and does not kiss his wife it can stir up negative thoughts and emotions which can lead to a fight later on. She unconsciously wonders if she looks terrible, and doubts her attractiveness. This negative mood can have a very negative effect on the rest of the evening. Kissing is the fuel that keeps the flame of love burning, and true lovers never tire of it. Shelly wrote,
See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me.
This is how all lovers feel-both romantic and religious. If sin has led us to a separation from God, then we need to look again to the cross, the kiss of heaven, and let God deal with that sin as only He can. Beecher said, "God pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting forgetfulness." Bret Harte wrote,
Never a lip is curved with pain,
That can't be kissed into smiles again.
Kissing is a powerful reality in both romance and religion. The greatest kiss of all is God's kiss of peace, which He gives to all who receive His Son as Savior. By that act of faith they become a part of the Bride of Christ, and they will enjoy His kisses forever.