But whatever the origins of the practice, shaking hands has been used as a way of greeting people, confirming agreements, sealing contracts and for many other things. In all these situations, however, handshaking is based on making a connection with another person. The simple act helps us relate to people and establish a rapport with them whether we are meeting them for the first time or we are greeting old friends.
Today, those who are particularly health conscious sometimes claim that shaking hands and other hand greetings such as “high fiving” tend to spread illnesses through the transfer of bacteria. Some of these people urge simple “fist bumping” as a “healthier alternative” greeting, and while this may help curb the spread of disease between sick people and healthcare workers, most of us continue to shake hands as people have done for centuries.
Other forms of greeting are used in various areas around the world, of course, and some were clearly in existence in biblical times. Paul advised the Christians in several congregations to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20), and Peter likewise encouraged his readers to “Greet one another with the kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14).
The point that we should take from this is that however we greet people – with handshakes, fist bumps, or “holy kisses,” we should focus on the act of connecting with others. Peter and Paul were not advocating some religious ritual; they were simply stressing that we should greet others with Christian sincerity and love. So often our greeting of others can be a formality that is hardly noticed – like asking someone “How are you?” when we see them, and perhaps not even expecting or waiting for an answer to the question.
The principle of greeting one another with the kiss of love suggests that every Christian should put more into a handshake than simply clasping hands. Do our eyes meet with those we greet and do our eyes show our sincere interest in them? It may be a small thing, but research has shown that when we greet people for the first time, they form most of their impression of us in the first five seconds of meeting us. If we are truly desirous to let our light shine, we should remember this. But it is not a matter of just making an impression of interest and concern – a handshake may be the first and best opportunity we have to begin to show the Christian love we have for others.