Devotional — Touch is a compassionate need for everyone

Published 12:39 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

One of the amazing things about being human beings is that we have different ways of experiencing the world around us. Those are our senses, and God has a long history of connecting to us through our senses.

Even God has senses according to the biblical record, which God uses to see, hear and smell. One very important way God shows us tremendous love is in the gift of touch – good, respectful and healthy touch.

We all need good touch. I have known teenagers who might dispute that in moments of rebellion and rejection of their parents. However, we can agree that it is a fundamental need of ours to be connected to others in this caring and compassionate way.

We have felt the sting of this absence at times in the pandemic when fear of the other has distanced us, and we have carried sanitizer for fear of contaminating touch. Thankfully, a good bit of that is excessive. We can touch safely and remember each other and celebrate our connections through touch when we are smart about it. Praise be to God!

Students of the gospels will recall just how hard it can be for people who are cut off from touch, namely the lepers. Just imagine how utterly hard it might be for someone who becomes untouchable. Historically, they were supposed to wear bells to announce their movements so that others could flee from their presence, lest there be anything close to touch. It is unfathomable to me just how hurtful it would be to be cut off from society in this untouchable way – the cruelty of cruelties. That makes it even more gracious, more striking, more humbling that Jesus would not only come near the lepers, but freely touch them.

This might have something to do with the fact that he was God’s living touch. The God who hears, who smells and who sees in scripture also touches. When the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1), this is God becoming touchable and touching. This “incarnational” gift means that God literally holds us as one of us. Anytime we are willing to be God’s holding, touching love in this world, we are sharing in the incarnational love of Jesus.

Throughout our lives, we need to be remembered and blessed and cared for through good, proper, healing and caring touch. When we are cut off from this physical connection to others, our lives suffer, even to the point of death. Those who are youngest and oldest are most vulnerable to this kind of harm. When we reach out, though, to our neighbor, to the lost or lonely, to the unlovable, and even to our enemy, we will find God’s pleasure and God’s Spirit working for our good. The God whom we cannot touch is amazingly very touchable. This seems like a good thing for us to hold together.

Rev. Dr. Peter Smith is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at pastorfpc@centurylink.net.