I was chatting with a friend today, and he asked me – “Do you know why we kiss?”
To clarify – he wasn’t asking why him and I kiss. We don’t. We bro-hug, or hand-shake – but never lock lips.
No, he was asking – why is it that humans kiss? Why do they choose to express their love through bringing together the orifices of eating and breathing? Why do we delight in putting lips-to-lips, or lips-to-cheek? Why not ear-to-ear? Elbow-to-elbow?
Now, our scientific culture automatically looks to the world of evolution and deterministic biology for the answer. There, they postulate that perhaps kissing is a culturally acceptable way to check out someone’s pheromones. When we go in for a snog, we also get a cheeky sniff – and that gives our brains a hint at their genetic makeup.
Others hypothesise that due to the large amount of nerve endings in the tongue – and the corresponding large area of the sensory cortex dedicated to the tongue – suggests that kissing provides a rich sensory experience, bringing two together.
When we look at history, we see that kissing has a rich and varied form. Some cultures have viewed kissing as ‘gross’, others as taboo in public, whereas others saw it as the appropriate greeting between friends of the same gender.
Across all cultures that do kiss, the brushing of lips was seen as a sign of love. So it is interesting to look at the Scriptures and see that Jesus was kissed twice.
First, Jesus was kissed on the feet by a woman – traditionally, a prostitute – who had found acceptance and forgiveness by Jesus. This was a public, unashamed act of love and devotion – yet was not appropriate for the culture at the time!
The religious elite were shocked at this unbridled display, and yet Jesus responded with love. He doesn’t stop her. He looks at her. And he speaks to her.
And then, in the dark of the night, Judas Iscariot comes to betray Jesus and turn him over to the ruling elite. Judas arranged a signal with the soldiers to identify Jesus in the dim light – he would use the common kiss.
So Judas, Jesus long-time friend and one of the twelve, comes up to Jesus. He calls him by that honoured name, “Rabbi” – and then kisses him.
Jesus responded with love. He didn’t stop him. He looked at him. And he spoke to him, saying, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Twice Jesus was kissed. One by a forgiven outcast. The other by a betraying insider. And both times he responded the same way.
Although I’m not hoping to have my feet kissed in public, or be betrayed by a good friend – I think there are lessons we can learn from the two kisses that Jesus received.
First, we can allow people to be as they are. This woman was breaking several social norms, likely being wildly emotional, and making people feel uncomfortable. And Jesus was OK with this.
I – like most people – tend to follow the over-bearing social norms. But I sometimes need to remember that these rules aren’t written on stone tablets, nor are they grounded on eternal truths. The vast majority of them are inherited, arbitrary social rules – that work for me.
But they’re not going to work for everyone. So if someone wants to join a group – or discover more about Jesus – and they’re acting differently to me – I should be OK with that. It seems like Jesus is. Perhaps that would mean our churches might become welcoming to people we don’t normally associate with. Perhaps that means people will respond and act in different ways.
See, Jesus would be just as happy sitting next to a heavily tattoo-ed high-school dropout, as he would a successful business woman. He’d likely be just as delighted by an elderly person whispering a meaningful hymn as he would a 13 year old raising their hands in worship.
Jesus looks to the heart. Perhaps I can learn that from him.
And, secondly, I can learn to ask God for a love that surpasses the norms.
Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him. As Judas came to brush his lips against Jesus’ cheek, Jesus knew that this was the last loving touch he would receive – and it wasn’t genuine.
And Jesus didn’t stop him. Jesus still called him friend.
This is a love that surpasses the norms. A love that isn’t passive-aggressive, and a love that continues to hope. This isn’t a love you can muster – but is a love that you can only receive.
So, as you read the stories of the two kisses – consider:
– How do you respond when people break social norms? When someone does something different? When there is someone new, doing something new, around you?
– And, how do you respond when people hurt you? Do you become embittered and vengeful, sharing the story behind their back? Or do you love and continue to love – even as it hurts?