Kissing and the Kingdom
Well?… aren’t you going to kiss me?
My wife Kathy posed that question after saying yes to my marriage proposal. I replied yes—and with that kiss, we came close to embodying the embodied gospel.
Kathy and I have been married thirty-five years. We didn’t kiss while dating. Our first kiss came after I proposed. But don’t be impressed. Kathy and I had not given any thought to what a kiss signifies. That’s probably true for most Christians.
In scripture, kissing is usually a greeting. It’s not erotic or romantic. It’s a gesture of welcome, like families and friends do to this day in countries like Italy. Men kiss men, brothers and sisters and cousins kiss (think of our idiom “kissin’ cousin”).
There are also kisses that go beyond greeting. They reveal our gods. Scripture applauds those who abstain from these kisses, as in Job. He had not thrown a kiss at the sun (31:26-27)—considered a god at the time. During the time of Ahab, God preserved 7,000 mouths “that have not kissed” the pagan god Baal (1 Kings 19:18; cf. Hosea 13:2).
And then there are kisses with erotic overtones. In Proverbs, an adulteress woman offers an illicit kiss (7:13). On a positive note, a loving bride longs for her groom’s kiss. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (Song of Songs 1:2). This kiss embodies the embodied gospel.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “embodiment” as “someone or something that physically reflects a quality or an idea exactly.” The embodied gospel exactly reflects the story of God “marrying” us (Hos. 2:19). We are the Son’s bride, betrothed to him so that we might be presented as a pure virgin (II Cor. 11:2). This embodied story is best told in our physical bodies, especially in our sexuality as male and female.
Kissing—lip to lip and, more intimately, tongue to tongue—is one of the most physically intimate actions there is. A kiss is not sex, however. Two people kissing are not one flesh. But they have drawn close. The bride longs to be kissed by her lover. Her lover longs to kiss the bride. “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil” (Song of Solomon 4:1). In the biblical story of marriage, the wedding bed soon follows. We kiss and then consummate.
When Kathy and I first kissed, we only came close to embodying the embodied gospel, for our wedding day was still months away. That’s a long time to abstain, as kissing is designed to stimulate us to consummate. Kathy and I did abstain, but it might have been easier had we waited to kiss on our wedding day.
Waiting to kiss might help believers in general. It’s tragic that abstinence rates for kids in youth programs are roughly the same as those not in the church. The divorce rates for Christians are roughly the same in the wider world. The same goes for viewing porn. These stats indicate Christians are unfamiliar with the embodied gospel.
When anyone turns to the Lord, “the veil is taken away… lifted” (II Cor. 3:16). In a wedding ceremony, the bride’s veil is lifted so that the couple can kiss. Perhaps Sixpence None The Richer had this in mind is writing “Kiss Me.” The band, named in honor of a passage from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, became a platinum-selling act with their 1997 album “Kiss Me.” The title song comes close to embodying the embodied gospel.
So did Kathy and I thirty-five years ago. But there’s another practice that reveals how well we embody the embodied gospel. We’ll consider it next week.
Originally published on Doggie Head Tilt.