Greet all brothers with a holy kiss” (1 Thess. 5:26).

When I first visited Budapest, Hungary for a mission trip, there was a part of their culture that was so odd to me. It took me a long time to get used to the way they greeted one another. Far more common than a handshake, as a form of greeting, many people in Europe greet one another with a kiss on the cheek.

Needless to say, this is not an American greeting. I can imagine the shock on people’s faces if after church on Sunday I kissed people on both cheeks instead of shaking their hands. On Monday morning my email would be full of angry letters talking about my inappropriate behavior. That’s simply not a part of our culture.

So maybe greeting each other with a kiss isn’t the best idea in today’s church, but we should do the cultural equivalent. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, all social contact has been strongly discouraged, and I can see the effects it has had on our church.

I’m thankful to pastor a very loving and friendly church. We love to hug and spend time together, but it’s been so long since we have been allowed to do such things. I’m curious as to how quickly we will return to greeting each other the way we used to.

Social distancing has become a habit for many of us. What was once awkward has now become normalized. I was in line at the store the other day, and when someone came and stood behind me, I automatically took a few steps forward to give them more space. I wasn’t worried about their health or mine. It’s just a habit now, but it is a habit I am going to have to break because a hug is that important.

I can often say more with a hug than I can in an entire sermon to comfort someone who is struggling. Many people live alone and feel alone, and a simple hug on Sunday is a reminder that there is a God who cares.

When Christians hug, it is God’s arms, not our own, communicating that His community is full of care and compassion. Hugging is so important, and I would even say to those who don’t consider themselves “huggers” to give it another try.

When the time is right, and we are no longer conscientious about COVID, don’t be afraid to let people back into your personal space. We are getting closer everyday to returning to something that looks like normal life, and when we do, we must cast off this distance and embrace each other once again with a holy hug.