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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?

Metaphors fail.

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?

Josh

9 thoughts on “Touch”

  1. Very senstive topic, if touch includes fists, or wrong it is a self imposed leprosy for those who’ve been violated by touch. The thing is Jesus i guess can redeem even this. For me touch has been wrong so long, not sure what is right. But i know humans need contact with other humans even if its hug. When it turns bad is the issue.

  2. I’m guessing that Josh sees hugging or patting on the back as acceptable forms of “touching’ in addition to a handshake.I have three sons and two sons in law all of whom I always hug and often give a peck on the cheek. None of them run from it and often they do the same to me. I also add the words, “I love you.” and I’m sure they understand my meaning. Then there are the guys that I train with in the gym. When I greet them and when they are leaving, there are hugs all around. Maybe it’s in the “continual practice” of the use of meaningful acts of friendship that everyone gets used to something less formal than a handshake. If it’s good enough for Jesus, who am I to complain?

    1. Absolutely, Paul. I actually think our hang-ups about healthy touch can be a factor that increases sexual temptation. (Not the only factor, but a factor.) But as we grow more comfortable with healthy expressions of love between our brothers and sisters (like the apostle Paul’s “greet one another with a holy kiss”), it does us all good.

      thanks for bringing your experience. I’m grateful.

  3. The only touch that I remember from my earthy father was one of corporal punishment . As a young boy I would begin to grimace inside when my dad would even get close . Never mind the touch thing . I needed a touch of an affirming , loving hand placed upon my shoulder in hopes that it might give me something that might let me know that I’ve done good to date and that I’ve got what it took for the future . With this seen ( tactilely ) in other heathy families, I could understand and keep moving forward and resolve conflict . Without jesus’ hand in resolution of my conflicts the cycle of addition continued . Touch, it’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing, I guess God knew that. p.s. short paragragh-long story. His Love, JH

    1. Thanks, JH, for bringing this to the conversation. Our negative experiences of touch can shape us negatively, and you give a poignant example of that as you describe your dad’s corporal punishment and its impact on you when he’d come near. I’m thankful you could see healthy, good touch in other families and how that helped you move forward.

      May you experience more and more good touch in your life, and may the Father continue to use it to help your body recognize His heart toward you.

      Grateful that you shared,
      Josh

  4. Thanks for the story of Robert’s healing touch. So awesome to read of someone entering into extraordinary awkwardness in the name of sharing Jesus’ love.

  5. One day when my mother was in her 70’s, she commented with tears that I was the only person who touched her. She wished people at church touched the elderly.

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