Love One Another: Physical Touch

This is the fifth of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The congregation is invited to take out something to write with and the bulletin insert for taking notes. Click here for the Physical Touch Insert. The prayer following the message is also located on the insert.

This message followed a time of prayer for all those effected by the accidental death of a local middle school student only two days prior.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been discovering how to love one another as Jesus loved. I’m grateful for the work of Dr. Gary Chapman which has so faithfully shaped our discussion. Though this sermon series is coming to an end, Jesus’ commandment to love goes on. Let’s review the five Love Languages again:

Words of Affirmation– For some, they best receive love through what we say and how we say it.

Quality Time- love through presence. This is exactly what those grieving Colin’s death need right now. Space to be real. Space to cry or scream. Someone to listen to their questions and their hearts.

Receiving Gifts- Gifts are tangible, symbolic expressions of love. We remember the love when we look at the gift or use the gift.

Acts of Service- Love in action. Which is closely tied to this week’s love language, Physical Touch- love through contact.

In today’s Scripture, all the love languages come together in a powerful way. We also see love abused and ignored.

Luke 10:25-37 NIV
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

The expert wants to test Jesus. This tells us quite a bit about him. He knows the law well and sums it up in what we often call The Great Commandment. You shall love the Lord your God, for love and life and salvation are from God. You shall love God with your entire being, holistically, a beautiful reminder that salvation means wholeness. You shall love your neighbor likewise. Up to God and out to neighbor, the cross shaped life provided through Christ. Yes! Do this, Jesus says, and you will live, live now and live forever. Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom is a present and future reality. The loving relationships of eternal life break into the present through faith. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

The expert is not satisfied. He wants to justify himself, to save himself through the strength of his own words and actions, to save himself by following the law to perfection. Jesus recognizes this and tells him a story.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

It’s obvious to all the robbers didn’t love the man. They beat him, abused him, and left him for dead. The tragedy of the story is that two others didn’t show him love either. The Priest and the Levite were religious, educated folks. They should have known better yet there are no words of comfort, no quality time, no acts of service.

Who shows the stranger love? A Samaritan. This is shocking in the ancient world. Jews did not speak to Samaritans. They were labeled half-breeds and many thought they could have no relationship with God since they worshipped differently and in different locations than the Jews.

Yet it is this outsider, the one who understands rejection and has probably experienced it himself, who loves the stranger deeply. He sees the beaten man as another human being, without regard of culture or race. He serves the man and spends quality time nursing him and binding his wounds. It’s easy for us to imagine words of encouragement, “You’re not alone. It’s going to be ok. You’re safe now.” He gives the man use of his own donkey and pays for his extended care.

And most importantly, he touches the man. This is the primary reason the religious folks walked on by. They didn’t want to touch him. He was bleeding and touching blood would make them ritually unclean until enough time had passed and enough sacrifices had been made. The religious folks valued the law above a life.

This past week my daughter and I were in NYC for her college auditions. As we left lunch and headed towards Times Square, we saw a man lying on the sidewalk. It was hard to tell if he was asleep or unconscious. He had a sign explaining he had been beaten for some reason. Large numbers of people walked right passed him, but my daughter stopped. She was making her way towards him and I stopped her. I was afraid for her, thinking of all the things that might happen.

Stopping her and stopping myself from responding to him is now haunting me. I read a passage like this and realize I’m the educated, religious leader who’s now walked on by a human being in need. I should know better and I should have done better. I could have found a police officer who would know what to do, just like the Samaritan found the innkeeper.

In John 13:34-35 NRSV, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus said this when? Right after he washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus wasn’t stopped by tradition or toe jam. Jesus loved deeply and demonstrated that love. Jesus understood the power of touch.

Demonstration: Invite someone up from the congregation. Extend your hand to shake their hand and they will respond. Now ask them to extend their hand to shake yours. Refuse to shake their hand and ask them how it feels. Offer to shake hands again and then right after use hand sanitizer. It’s funny but it makes a point.

Loving relationships are built on communication. Research tells us that communication is 7% what you say, 38% how you say it, and 55% body language.

  • Hugs & Kisses
  • Pat on the back or on the head
  • Holding Hands
  • Sexual intimacy between a married couple

Christ knew this and so Christ touched people- dead people, bleeding people, people with skin diseases. He was not concerned with being unclean. One time he was brought a man who was deaf and mute. Jesus sticks his fingers in the man’s ears and then holds on to his tongue as part of the healing. (Mark 7:31-37) Another time he was brought a blind man. Jesus picks up some dirt, spits in his hands, and then rubs the mud on the man’s eyes. (John 9:1-7) Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch people, to get involved, to get dirty.

Christ touched people and allowed himself to be touched- We think of Mary holding him in her arms and hold him to her breast. Of Jesus welcoming little children (ever have a little one grab your leg and won’t let go?).

And what about the notorious woman with the alabaster jar (Luke 7:36-50) who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and lets down her hair in public in order to dry them. Then she begins kissing his feet. Then she cracks open that exotic bottle of expensive perfume and anoints his feet. The educated, religious folks sneer, but Jesus declares she has been forgiven much and thus she has shown great love. He says she will be remembered for her love and so she is.

Jesus allows the guards to whip him and strip him and beat him. He allows them to nail him to a cross till he is touched by death itself. Then a few brave ones perform the last act of love for him. They beg for his broken, bleeding body in order to wash it. Then they wrap it gently in linen and spices and lay him in a stone tomb.

But that is not the end. Jesus is raised on day three, alive, and how does he prove it? He says, “Touch me.” Touch the place where the nails were in my hands. Touch where the spear was thrust into my side.

You see dear friends, God cares about bodies. Some religions claim only the soul is important. Only the soul lives on, but not God. God creates through speech, but also reaches down into the mud to create through touch. The Adam. The Earth-Man. God – Father, Son, Spirit- aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. God cares about every part of us- heart, soul, mind, body. Resurrection of the body. Salvation means wholeness. Every part will be redeemed.

We has the followers of Christ must also care about bodies, we must touch. This is so important Jesus names us his Body. Like him, we touch even though the world says it’s dangerous, too involved, too intimate, too dirty. Go and do likewise, says our Lord. Go and do likewise.

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Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this message in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

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