Mark 10:13 People brought little children to Jesus asking Him to touch them. Jesus gently held each child in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.
Last week I went to a mental hospital where I was cautioned that many of the patients had experienced sexual abuse or were criminals for sexual abuse who were aggressive, bipolar, and schizophrenic. We were told that techs had initiated a new policy with fist pumps instead of handshakes so that we wouldn't have to hold the patient's hands due to uncleanliness.
Yet as I went to go talk to an older guy he reached out his hand for a handshake and I wasn't assertive enough to switch it around so I just shook his hand. And as I shook his hand he didn't want to let go of my hand. So I decided it was ok to just hold his hand for a while as we talked (we were being supervised for safety so I wasn't extremely worried). I was able to talk to this guy about some challenges he had faced with his family and friends and I could tell that he was very lonely. At the end of the conversation I prayed with him and told him I had to go so I needed to stop holding his hand and he told me thank you.
Shortly after, I met a schizophrenic lady who likewise wanted to hold my hand. And so I did. I decided that the people there must not get touched a lot and imagined that if Jesus were there, He would be holding hands and giving full hugs (not side hugs ;)
In our society, touch is dangerous. "You could be raped" they say or you could just be sued for something someone perceives as sexual assault. If someone touches your shoulder or arm, it is difficult to know if they are interested in you, being sexual, by showing touch or if they are just being nice.
I believe that Satan loves counterfeits and that he likes taking things that God has created to be healing and beneficial for us and perverting them. Touch is a beautiful a thing but I know for me personally I often struggle with giving and receiving healthy touch because of society, mistrust, or miscommunication.
I am very guarded when it comes to touching other people, especially of the opposite gender. I do not give hugs very openly and I never put my arm around someone else. Yet when I went to Peru as a student missionary two years ago, I felt for the first time the warmth of a culture who embraced pure physical touch. Church members, friends, and family members hugged and kissed cheeks freely and warmly and it was such a loving sign of acceptance and love.
If we look in the Bible, we see that Jesus often used physical touch as a way of healing and showing that he cared for people. He rarely looked at a sick man and said "Get up and be healed" but instead would put his own hands on people to heal them (even on another man's tongue) (weird right? look it up?) Jesus was constantly touching people, washing His disciples feet, holding hands.
I think that if we will look around us, we can see that so many people are not receiving adequate amounts of physical touch and I think that this can have dire consequences. Touch is a way of communicating that is extremely powerful. Without touch, infants can actually suffer from growth problems. Adults that receive regular touch often have lower blood pressure and less stress than people who don't. Touch has been shown to slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illnesses or surgery.
Did you know that there are people who are so lonely that they have to get sick or make themselves hurt so they can go to a loving doctor or nurse and receive physical touch? That's just so sad!
So here's where I'm at: knowing that we as individuals have a need for physical touch and that it is beneficial for our body, mind, and spirits, how can we appropriately learn to physically touch others and receive loving physical touch without being misinterpreted or offending others?