The truck was loaded with some firewood, basic supplies and a warm meal. We pulled the truck off the road and headed up a small trail where we could see our friends huddled around a makeshift fire trying to keep warm. As we made our way toward them, greetings were exchanged and supplies unloaded.
I removed my gloves for a minute and went to shake the hand of a friend who lives under the overpass. He pulled back in horror. His hands were covered in soot from the fire and he refused to shake my hand. With his head bowed and eyes focused on his shoes he muttered, “No. I don’t want to get your hands dirty.”
Talk about awkward. So, I did the only thing I knew to do and hugged him instead.
I thought about my friend this morning as I was reading the story of Jesus healing the leper in Matthew 8.
Jesus is being followed by a large crowd of people and out of nowhere a leper approaches him, asking for healing and cleansing. This is a bold move because lepers were labeled “unclean” – by God Himself, mind you( Leviticus 13:3) – and were isolated from society. Drawing close to anyone, let alone this Jesus fellow, was risky.
Of course, I love that Jesus healed this man, but today I saw something more to love: “Jesus reached out and touched him” (v. 3). Can you imagine how long it had been since he felt the touch of another? I wonder if he shrunk back as my friend did.
Notice that Jesus could have simply spoken the healing, as He did in the story that follows, but He didn’t. Why? I think He knew this man needed the acceptance that we feel from the loving touch of another.
Have you hugged someone today? If not (and even if you have) get out there and hug some unsuspecting people! You never know when the last time someone showed them some affection.