Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1:30-31)
My grandmother was a hugger, at least during the time I knew her. She loved giving hugs, even to people who were not particularly fond of touch. She was on to something.
As this article points out, hugs are good for our health. Hugs make us feel loved and safe. Human touch is important to our physical and mental well-being.
Jesus knew this, too. He often touched the “untouchables,” those declared unclean by society. Although some thought that sickness was God’s punishment for sin, Jesus rejected the idea. He, like we do, viewed, illness as un-wholeness, or brokenness, that which needs healing and made whole. We are not our whole selves without healing the broken places.
Touch is incredibly important throughout the Bible and especially in Jesus’ ministry. He touched Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter and brought her back to life. He touched the eyes of the blind man and gave him sight.
In Scripture, touch may even be a metaphor for intimacy. Those in need in healing were on the margins because of their brokenness. They were rejected by their family and friends and not part of society because they could not contribute. How lonely they must have been. No one to hold their hands or give them a hug. If they weren’t already in need of healing, this would have broken their hearts.
God created us to be in relationship. That’s why the story goes that God created partners in the beginning of creation. It’s a metaphor for us needing to have a connection with others, to be in community, and to share our stories and our lives. Humans were not created to be alone. It sucks being sick, but it sucks even more if you have suffer alone. It stinks when your mom isn’t there to take care of you. And what if no one ever gave you a hug? Actually, this occurs a lot for single people. And those in nursing homes.
Some churches practice “Passing the Peace” during worship. I have heard from many that this makes them uncomfortable. But for others, this may be the only time during the week that they get touched or hugged.
Lack of human touch is detrimental to one’s physical and spiritual health. Scientists and psychologists have conducted experiments on primates and infant children who were deprived at an early age of human touch. The results of the studies show devastating effects on developmental skills and sociability.
Jesus was no medical doctor, but was a healer. He knew the importance of reaching out and touching the lonely, the unclean, the sick. Jesus did not shy away from broken bodies. “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her.” Jesus must have understood the power of touch, of intimacy, to make whole. And he did just that.
Won’t you give a hug today?
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.