For many men where I live, a handshake is the greeting of choice, sometimes even among close friends. One of my friends rejects this norm openly. If I reach out to shake his hand, he grabs it, pulls me in and gives me a hug.
I love it.
No, it’s more than that. I need it.
Touch isn’t optional.
I love the story of the leper who fell down at Jesus’ feet asking, “Lord, if you’re willing, you can make me clean.”
In that culture, those with leprosy were required to live separated from everyone else, even family and friends. And rule #1 was: Don’t touch anyone. Don’t even touch anything they touch, or they’ll become unclean, like you.
This man probably hadn’t been touched in years.
Not days, not weeks. Years.
And then finally, on his knees, he felt Jesus’ hand on his leprous skin.
Can you imagine what that felt like for him?
Jesus broke through his fear and isolation: “I’m willing,” He said, “Be cleansed.”
Notice the order of Jesus’ actions and words. He touches, then He heals. He didn’t have to do it this way. He was purposeful. Have you wondered why? What would the difference have been for this man if Jesus had healed him and then touched him?
Touch matters. And Jesus knew how to love with his body.
Let me shift gears. Have you ever wondered why Scripture calls us, the church, Christ’s body?
Robert is a friend of mine in New York City who has a heart for sexually addicted homosexual men. One night, he went to an area frequented by men looking for anonymous sex with other men. While there, he was propositioned by another man.
Robert’s a strong, teddy bear of a guy. He didn’t run. He didn’t turn away. Instead, he leaned in and gave the guy a big, firm, loving bear hug, and spoke quietly in his ear, “I’m not here to have sex with you. I know what you’re really looking for, and that’s not it. If you’re willing, I’d love to go grab a coffee with you and just talk.”
The man started weeping in Robert’s arms. A few minutes later, they sat across from each other at a nearby diner.
Touch matters. Jesus knew how to love with his body. Stories like this remind me he still does.
Maybe the question for the body of Christ (you and me) today is this: Will we let him?
Leave a comment below: Was there a time for you when someone’s touch had a healing impact? Do you think our culture is getting more or less comfortable with healthy, holy touch?