All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. I Corinthians 16:20
Growing up in a Midwest culture it was a rare thing for my family in the postwar years that were also post Great Depression years to show any outward, physical affection. This may not have had anything to do with a geographic area or post anything era, but as I reflect back upon it the very hard times that my parents and grandparents endured gendered, in my mind at least, a sort of toughness that was not at all comfortable with much affection shown either by the touch or by the tongue. “I love you” were words just not often spoken; a loving caress or touch, well maybe our family was different, but we just were not given to those displays of caring devotion.
I married a beautiful belle from North Carolina, and I confess it has never been difficult for me to tell her I love her or for me to give her a loving embrace. So, my childhood days were not so without affection that I did not know how to demonstrate my love for my wife; maybe not quite so natural with our children and certainly not, in my early adult years, with others.
But God brought into our lives, in time, some wonderful people who taught me how to appreciate a hug as well as a hand shake. It became something that I did not have to work at doing. And, to say “I love you” because you truly in the love of Christ love another human being, whether man or woman, became something I grew accustomed to and have been blessed by verbal affection as well as a kind, loving touch.
One of my regrets in life, though, is that “I love you” never became a common note struck in our family gatherings in my childhood days. I would often yearn to hug my Dad but I can only remember one time when I determined I would do it and did! My Dad felt affection deeply, I never doubted that. He showed it to his wife without hesitation. He was tenderhearted and loving. But when Ellen and I and the children would leave to go home after a visit, knowing that it might be a long time before we’d see each other again, Dad would always extend his hand and offer a heartfelt handshake. That was just his way and for years it was my way. Imagine the horror when in1989 I had the opportunity to visit the then Soviet Union and minister in churches there, to learn in our very first service that in Russian churches men greeted other men with a holy kiss and it was not a kiss on the cheek but it was indeed lips to lips. Well, that will have to be another story. I have written this to say that people have different ways of saying “I love you,” and different ways of showing it. One need not be more or less genuine than the other. It depends upon many factors whether you will extend a hand or go for a hug. The crux of the matter is though that we should let our family know that we do indeed love them and that we cherish appropriate ways, verbal and non-verbal, to let them know so.
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship. Acts 20: 36-38