Focus Scripture – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NKJV)
I believe there’s more to Paul’s closing than meets the eye. As I ended my reading of this passage, my attention was drawn back to that kiss Paul described in v. 12. And I asked myself, what exactly is this “holy kiss” or this “sacred kiss”?
- The holy kiss is mentioned five times in the New Testament: (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13.12, 1Thess. 5:26, and 1Pet. 5:14).
- In New Testament times, the holy kiss was a sign of greeting. For Christians, it expressed brotherly love and unity.
- The Greek words used in scripture denote a kiss that is sacred—physically pure and morally blameless. (Got Questions: Holy Kiss)
- The phrase “holy kiss” implies how warm and tender and gentle and kind and affectionate we should be towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Modern Times – Love Letter
All of this, in turn, made me think of the days prior to computers, when people used to actually take pen in hand, think about what they wanted to say, and write it down on paper. They’d read the letter over to make sure they hadn’t missed something. Then they’d fold the pages neatly and place them in an envelope. They’d put a stamp on it. And if the letter was addressed to someone who was dear to them, perhaps they would write SWAK on the flap of the envelope.
To give you a little background, the acronym SWAK means “sealed with a kiss” and was commonly written on envelopes sent by servicemen to their lovers during the World War I and II. In one sense, sealed with a kiss (SWAK) meant that the correspondence was written and sent with heartfelt love and undying affection. You really had to care about someone to put SWAK on the envelope.
Now, I didn’t see the original parchment. I don’t know what Paul wrote on the outside of it or if he wrote anything. But in my sanctified imagination, I like to believe that Paul wanted to express a special kind of love for the church. I believe that Paul gained so much from loving Christ that he wanted the Corinthians to know and feel that same kind of agape love. I believe Paul understood that if the Corinthians learned how to live for Christ and love him with their whole hearts, all else would fall into place.
So in spite of the fact that the Corinthians were obstinate and spirited on occasion, and the fact that they were not always loyal to their leader, Paul loved them anyway. He loved them with the love of Christ. And he wanted them to know the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Paul probably dictated the letter. But it was probably given to him for his final signature. I imagine that after Paul had poured out his heart in this letter, he placed a bit of wax on the package to hold it together and make sure it didn’t come apart in transit. He might have tied it with a cord. I imagine he glanced down at the letter because its contents were so precious and so profound. And in my mind’s eye, I envision that Paul sealed it with a kiss.