Washing Feet & A Holy Kiss

In John 13:14,15, Jesus gives a command to wash feet and Romans 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:20 say, “Salute one another with a holy kiss.” Why do we not do these things?

John 13:14,15 is Jesus’ conclusion to his efforts to silence His disciples on their misguided idea of greatness. It is possible they perceived greatness as the ability to rule and oversee others. Jesus endeavored to teach them that idea was not consistent with greatness in His kingdom. Therefore, He arose from eating the Passover and washed the feet of each apostle. This was the Son of God, the King of Kings, and Lord of lords stooping down, performing a task most would consider too lowly a job. It was an act of humility, and humility and service are the attitudes our Lord wanted His apostles to bring into the kingdom.

Some people believe feetwashing is a necessary ritual of worship, but that was not what Jesus was teaching. The point Jesus made in saying, “For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you” is addressed to the apostles, not to us. Verse 14 says, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Doing so would place a responsibility of service in their hearts, and it should be shown toward each other, without disputing over who is first. Yes, these principles of humility, service, and hospitality are the attitudes we should have toward one another today. We should never think it beneath our dignity to serve one another, even if it meant under the circumstances (due to sickness and unable to bathe oneself) to wash another Christian’s feet. Washing feet is a necessity for every individual. It is a real need every day, but it is not to be considered an act of worship.

Now, then, consider this...

Romans 16:16 says, “Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you.” 1 Corinthians 16:20 says, “All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.” This kiss was “a sign of fraternal affection” that “Christians were accustomed to in welcoming or dismissing their companions in the faith” (Thayer). Paul also uses this expression in 2 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. It is the same greeting Judas gave Jesus in the garden, but that kiss was one of hypocrisy, not an expression of genuine affection.

Giving or receiving a kiss upon seeing one another showed a respectful and genuine affection for one another. It was a customary greeting like our handshake or hugging. It is still practiced by individuals in other countries due to the close relationships they have with one another (family, Christians, friends, etc.). A “holy kiss” is not our customary practice of greeting one another, but it is in other parts of the world. This admonition of Paul is noteworthy because of the genuine affection brethren should have for one another, especially in contrast to how one should receive those who cause division among the brethren (Romans 16:17,18). Paul is making a declaration for brethren to show a warm salutation to all those of faith in Christ Jesus, and whose hope is in the Lord. It is an indication of our common fellowship as fellow soldiers of the cross.