It was a sunny day and I was outside playing with the two little boys I nanny every afternoon. While getting the dump trucks and fire trucks from their bin in the shed, the boys discovered a spider web bigger than their heads, with a spider in the dead center. They were fascinated, and their fingers instantly reached out to touch the spider. I quickly pulled them back and told them "Just use your eyes! Look, but don't touch."
I didn’t think much of it—I was protecting them, keeping them safe from the potential harm that could have come their way if they had gotten too close.
Later that week, that moment came back to me as I was flipping through the Gospels. I realized something about Jesus as I scanned over those chapters and books. He touched a lot.
The man with leprosy came before him, asking to be made clean. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:2-3)
Peter's mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
The daughter of a ruler was dead in bed. Jesus took her by the hand, spoke to her, and she got up at once. (Luke 8:53-55)
Two blind men followed Jesus, crying that he would have mercy on them. He touched their eyes and healed them because of their faith. (Matthew 9:27-29)
The stories continue throughout the Gospels- Jesus moving, speaking, touching and healing person after person.
I think about those people in our world today. They are still just as real as they were when Jesus was here. There are people on street corners holding ragged signs that announce their circumstances to passersby-- homeless, broke, hungry, no job, down on their luck. There are people living under underpasses and bridges, surrounded by trash and broken bottles, with just a slab of concrete for a bed. There are still blind, sick, lonely, hurting, deaf and dying people all around me.
I look, but I don't touch. I see them from the safety of my car, I see them on the curb as I rush past on the sidewalk next to them. I hurry away, avert my eyes, pretend I don't notice them so I don't have to engage. I see them in seats across the aisle from me in the sanctuary, I see their subtle pleas for attention pop up on my newsfeed, I see their faces on the news.
These hard, ugly things in the world don’t discriminate. The people they affect aren’t less human. We look at them and use their circumstances or conditions to define them, and we shy away because we don’t know what to do with those things.
But Jesus touched. The world pushed people to the outskirts and the edges, wanting them out of sight and out of mind, but Jesus pushed through the crowds to get close to them and touch them. The world put their hands over their eyes, but Jesus put His hands on the bodies of the broken that needed His healing.
We tell young kids to look with their eyes but not touch with their hands, and I wonder if we ever unlearn that way of living. I wonder if we grow up with that ringing in our heads and I wonder if we take that to our faith. We see the brokenness, the pain, the diseases and the disasters, but do we get our hands dirty in working to bring hope, healing, light and love to those places? Are we so afraid that if we touch, we'll be made unclean and untouchable too?
The more I look at what Jesus did, the more I see that He wasn't made dirty by touching the unclean. The unclean was made new and spotless instead. We can't expect to just look at broken things and see them miraculously transform into something whole again. We have to move close, pick up the pieces, apply the glue, put the puzzle back together and do the work that restores.
I’m not a big physical touch person. I would much rather say hi and smile from a few feet away than give you a big bear hug, would rather clasp my own hands together than take yours in mine when we pray, would rather curl up in the corner of the couch than cuddle up to someone else. I’m learning that although touching may not be my favorite, if I’m looking to Jesus as the example for what it looks like to love and serve the world around me, I must touch.
I must engage, connect, touch and feel. Hiding my eyes and avoiding contact is cowardly, and Christ is calling me to be courageous and compassionate. Staying where I feel safe stifles the incredible things in store for me when I follow the Spirit into places that are wild and new.
Let’s reach out, touch and feel. Let’s use our hands like they truly are the hands of Jesus.
Rachel Dawson is a writer of blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, daily journal entries and doodles. She blogs about her life and faith at www.racheladawson.com and as part of the Rethink Creative Group. She is always reading, whether it’s C.S. Lewis or Timothy Keller, Twitter, her study Bible, or vegan and gluten-free cookbooks. She wholeheartedly believes in having adventures, having passion, sending snail mail, and having complete faith in the Lord. Find her on Twitter here or check her out on Facebook.