Although there is certainly a place for habits and traditions in one’s daily life, they can easily become perfunctory. The one-armed hug while air-kissing someone’s cheek might be perceived as a hasty and superficial, routine duty when done with a lack of interest or enthusiasm. An action that one feels is obligatory can morph into an artificial gesture rather than an honest, sincere and heart-felt expression of genuine appreciation and admiration.
Of course the circumstances surrounding greetings would certainly come into play. The hugs at a funeral, after a long separation or after a natural disaster, would no doubt be intense and prolonged. They would be zealous, which is the opposite of perfunctory.
The 1st Century Christians were admonished to greet one another with a “holy kiss” in several scriptures. (Rom 16:16) (1 Cor 16:20) (2 Cor 13:12) (1 Th 5:26) (1 Pe a5:14) Given the severe persecutions of that era, they could not be sure they would ever have another chance to show their love of the brethren. (1 Th 3:4) (2 Ti 3:12) (Jo 15:20) There is little doubt then that their greetings were not perfunctory. Probably because of our culture’s perceptions, the hoy kiss is very rare today. However, we can still show our love of the brethren through handshakes, hugs, fist-bumps, pats on the back and smiles.
When faithful Christians meet together weekly (Heb 10:25) there could always be the possibility of allowing worship to become perfunctory. The Lord Jesus Christ hates that and warns His disciples not to forsake their first love (Rev 2:4) nor to be lukewarm (Rev 3:16) We are never to be lacking in zeal, rather to keep our spiritual fervor. (Rom 12:11)