The "Kiss of Charity", "Holy Kiss", or Kiss of Peace is instructed several times in the New Testament, for example:

1 Peter 5:14 (KJV): Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity.

2 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV): Greet one another with an holy kiss.

But as far as I can tell, this is not widely practiced in Protestant denominations. I find some (mostly historical) references to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Anabaptist practice but not much elsewhere.

Is there a basis in Biblical interpretation for Protestant rejection of this instruction as globally applicable? Or is it simply something that fell out of practice due to cultural differences?

Further background:

Catholic Encyclopedia entry:

at the present day the Pax is only given at High Mass, and is hardly anywhere communicated to the congregation. The celebrant kisses the corporal spread upon the altar (he used formerly in many local rites to kiss the sacred Host Itself) and then, placing his hands upon the arms of the deacon, he presents his left cheek to the deacon's left cheek but without actually touching it. At the same time he pronounces the words Pax tecum (Peace be with thee); to which the deacon replies, Et cum spiritu tuo (And with thy spirit). The deacon then conveys the salute to the sub-deacon, and the subdeacon to the canons or clergy in the stalls.

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia entry:

...the "conservative" conferences such as Old Order Amish Mennonites, Old Order (Wisler) Mennonites, Church of God in Christ, Mennonites (Holdeman), Reformed Mennonites, and Conservative (Amish) Mennonites maintained either an absolute or a greater relative separation from all other groups and influences... As the Christian salutation it was practiced almost universally among all members, lay as well as ministers, except in the Conservative (Amish) Mennonite Conference where it was only practiced between brethren and ministers at the invitation of the ministers.

  • +1 This is an interesting qns and I would love to see the comments and answers! Never knew (because I dont read enough) about such a thing! Anyway, could you source some doctrine or writings/events from the Catholic side to prove such a thing exist? It would tailor your context to better suit this site :) Lastly, welcome to CSE!
    – Zoe
    Jun 13, 2014 at 4:19
  • @Zoe added some background links/text. Let me know if this is what you mean.
    – Lessac
    Jun 13, 2014 at 15:41
  • I'd say it's ignored rather than it's rejected. The United States isn't generally a kiss-when-you-greet kind of culture, unlike Mexico and the Caribbean, and 1st century Israel. Could you infer that Peter and Paul were REALLY just trying to tell the believers to love each other?
    – LCIII
    Jun 13, 2014 at 16:37

3 Answers 3


I have actually seen some Protestant churches like Assembly of God practicing this Holy Kiss but not very often. It depends on the pastor of the church. There is no rule for practicing Holy Kiss in many Protestant churches whether it should be practiced or not. Some encourage it, some ignore it. An example of encouraging Greeting of any form in Assembly of God.

Greeting is often regulated by cultural acceptance and practices. Today, we embrace/hug, shake hands, pat backs or give high fives. There are not too many practices, even a kiss on the forehead or cheek, that are frowned upon as long as they reflect a genuine and godly spirit. Don’t miss out on opportunities to express your appreciation, thankfulness and love for others. (source)

Greeting each other by kissing is a Jewish custom. They kiss the cheek or mostly on forehead, depends on your relationship with the person but never on the mouth and not between opposite sex. (More information on Jewish Greeting)

In the New Testament also, we see an example of Jewish greeting by kissing, the famous kiss of betrayal called Kiss of Judas.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48, NIV)

Holy Kiss was indeed encouraged by the Apostles, who happened to be Jews, but it is not clear whether this Jewish custom should be continued by Christians or not. The most important message the Apostles left us is that Christians should love each other and greet whenever we meet.

Whether or not the holy kiss should be a tradition we carry on today is not clear in Scripture. Whether or not our salutations to our brothers and sisters in Christ include the holy kiss, the important thing is that our greetings spring from real love and friendship, be characterized by sincerity, and represent true Christian fellowship. (source)


The instruction to greet one another with a holy kiss should correspond to something in our practice as Christians. In some cultures, greeting with a kiss is very uncomfortable (and yes, maybe we should just get over it). The real point of the instruction is that there should always be an intimate, joyful greeting between two believers.

If, for example, we are bitter toward an individual, an intimate greeting would be difficult to muster up when we saw that person. We often choose to simply pass that person by when we see him or her. This instruction is meant to create a sense of what ought to be if we love each other. Therefore, if we are in the habit of greeting one another intimately (maybe a hug instead of a kiss) the absence of that greeting will reveal the bitterness and division that is beginning in our hearts.

In this way, it is true that the greeting may not have to be a kiss, but the greeting does need to be intimate. Therefore, to apply this teaching, Christians must think of the person they hold most dear and how they greet that person when everything is going well. For myself, I hug my close friends and I kiss some in my family. I employ hugs within my church circles, because of the discomfort many have with the kiss. There are many that are uncomfortable with even hugs, so in my tone of voice and the happiness of my eyes and the smile on my face I attempt to communicate the same joy and freedom from bitterness. How I wish I were strong enough to be faithful in this always!

One last note, we can kiss everyone out of tradition, yet horribly fail at obeying this instruction. While kissing an individual out of habit we can at the same time entertain bitter thoughts toward that person. The greeting should be uncomfortable if there is bitterness, but simply feeling uncomfortable is not enough. We must seek reconciliation so that the greeting remains genuine.


Its an obvious metaphor for simply greeting each other. There's no literal kiss commanded. Its just like:

Psalm 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Not to mention, if it were literal, we wouldn't know what it was. Was it blowing a kiss? a kiss on the forhead? on the cheek? on the mouth? or was it a hand-sign (the peace sign) as I believe it is in some traditions? If there was any literal practice, it was purely cultural, and certainly is not binding on us today.

From an article called 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Entering an Orthodox Church:

Kissing in the Church. Alright, I know what you’re thinking. The Orthodox church is supposed to be super strict…how then can we allow kissing at church? The reality is we kiss stuff. It’s an expression of love- sincere affection. We kiss icons, the relics of saints, and a priest’s hand when greeting him. We even kiss each other shortly after the sermon during the liturgical service. You’ll hear the deacon say “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (1 Peter 5:14). It’s not a secret handshake that only Coptic people know, don’t worry; just follow the lead of those around you: both palms touching with thumbs crossed over each other, touch the hands of your neighbor and then kiss your own hand. Repeat.

If its really a handshake, then clearly the "kiss" part is a metaphor.

  • 8
    I'm not sure how "obviously a metaphor" this would have been in the first century middle east but this fails to make a convincing case beyond citing western cultural assumptions. Where I live the default assumption is quite the opposite because a litteral kiss (on the cheek) is standard greeting practice.
    – Caleb
    Jun 13, 2014 at 6:38
  • 1
    @Caleb. Not often I agree with you but yes in the Middle East it is a kiss on the cheek and it is still practiced today. Jun 13, 2014 at 8:16
  • @Benjol, Is your link supposed to be an ad for a Pixar movie, or is that a mistake? Jun 14, 2014 at 1:39
  • David, it should link to a film, but not Pixar
    – Benjol
    Jun 16, 2014 at 5:29

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