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One of the most repeated commands in the New Testament is Paul's instruction at the end of many of his letters, for Christians to "greet one another with a holy kiss." It isn't just a ritual closing (like "Say hello to everyone for me") but rather a clear rule which he expected them to obey.

Paul was looking for a deeper and more meaningful relationship between Christians than exists in most fellowships today.

Only in recent years has "kissing" meant action between mouths and tongues. Historically, it has been something closer to a hug.

Eskimos, for example, kiss by rubbing noses. In many European countries, you press the sides of your faces together (first one side, then the other) to kiss.

But the common ingredient in all of this is the hug.

People seek to hug those whom they love and to love those whom they hug. Young children cling naturally to those whom they love. But as they grow older, fear and pride teach them to withdraw into lonely isolation.

A big reason we hold ourselves or others back from hugging is the fear that it will lead to sexual abuse. But it's actually a lack of hugs that causes most sexual tensions. If we ban open, sincere expressions of brotherly love, people will turn to flirtatious, seductive forms of sexual expression.

James wrote, "Confess your faults to each other and pray for each other, that you may be healed." (James 5:16) Honest sharing as a prelude to hugging is one way to cleanse (or heal?) it of immoral thoughts, and to keep it "holy".

If you feel tempted to think of someone in a sexual way, it may not be wise to confess it to that person; but you can still share your thoughts with someone of the same sex.

The more we share and the more we hug, the easier it is to see the difference between genuine brotherly love and feelings that are just sexual tension (which are easily dealt with through masturbation and/or marital sex).

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