1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
The word translated “kiss” (‘philma’) occurs six other times in the NT.
In Luke 7:45, Jesus uses it to admonish his Pharisee host, Simon, because of what he failed to do for him when he arrived (in contrast with the ‘sinful woman’ who anointed his feet with expensive perfume), and in Luke 22:48 Jesus again uses it to question Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”. Whatever the actual action involved, it was obviously a recognised way of greeting one another with genuine brotherly affection.
The other four uses are from the pen of the Apostle Paul at the end of a letter, encouraging fellow believers to adopt such a mode of greeting (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13 :12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). In each of Paul’s uses he qualifies the ‘philma’ with the word ‘holy’ (‘hagios’), so it was something very special that the early Christian believers adopted to give expression to their true feelings for one another ‘in Christ’.
In his letter, Peter qualifies it with the word ‘agape’, the self-giving, sacrificial love that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13, and that was exemplified in its absolute form throughout Christ’s life and ministry, and ultimately in his death on the cross for us, undeserving sinners. In today’s verse, Peter is obviously making a very strong appeal to all of us who are ‘in Christ’, who have come to him in repentance-and-faith and submitted to him as Lord of our lives, to be sure to persevere in active pursuit of genuine, self-denying, mutually-serving, loving relationships in everything we do for him.
This isn’t always easy because God has made us with different gifts and personalities, so that the bodyof Christ, the Church, can be effective in all its different tasks in the world. Do we work hard at putting in the necessary effort to meet this challenge? I like the little rhyme: “To dwell above with the saints we love, ah yes, that will be glory; to dwell below with the saints we know, well that’s another story!” Let us remember Jesus’ command: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35), where the four occurrences of ‘love’ all derive from the root, ‘agape’. Let us make sure we are not guilty of the same error Simon the Pharisee or Judas Iscariot made!
– Bruce Christian