Recently an older woman I have only spoken to twice started to give me a hug as she was greeting me at church. She stopped midway and asked,”Are you a hugging person?” I smiled and responded, “yes!” and hugged her back. After we had gone our separate ways Matt asked, “So you two are on hugging terms now?”
When Matt said that it made me think; shouldn’t we always be on hugging terms? We keep space between us and other people. Emotional space, intellectual space, and physical space. We have a few people we let pass our barriers, but if you really stop and think about it, how many more people are on the outside of every barrier you could possibly put between you and them?
I love hugs. Yes, they are a sign of affection. And yes, I get a million cuddley ones a day from my kiddos. But I very rarely get a strong, firm hug from someone who isn’t my husband. To me, hugs are both reassuring and a sign of love. They say, “I love you, and I’ve got your back.”
Paul says repeatedly in the New Testament, “greet one another with a holy kiss.” During my time in Mozambique I got kissed constantly when greeting people. I even got kissed on the lips by a very old woman with no teeth! That was their custom, their culture, their way of showing respect and honor. Here in America I am lucky to get to shake hands with someone new I meet at church, and once we move past the hand shake there is no more physical contact at all.
Jesus said that the world would know we were His disciples by our love. But how are we showing the world our love? By smiling at each other from across the sanctuary on Sunday mornings? By liking someone’s Facebook updates but not speaking to them in person? I don’t think those are the things Jesus had in mind when He was speaking of a love that would point people to Him.
Like I said before, I love hugs. I love the way they say, both verbally, physically and emotionally, “I love you, and I’ve got your back.” I’m going to start hugging more people whom I have not hugged before. I want to be a person of love, a person who exudes a life changing love constantly. I want to be a person who says, “I am such a lover because of the One who gave everything to love me.” And when I hug you, I will be saying, “I love you, I’ve got your back, I care about you, and I am here being Jesus’ arms for you right now.”
Be on the lookout, because the next time you see me, you will be hugged. You’ve been warned….