Sunday, 28 June 2020

Point of Contact - Mark 1

A man afflicted by a crippling skin disease comes to Jesus. This man is desperate - the disease has ruined his life. People keep their distance and he cannot get a job. Approaching Jesus he sinks to his knees and literally begs Jesus: "If you are willing, you can make me clean!".

In his begging he reveals two things. First a basic belief that Jesus has the power and ability to heal, but second an uncertainty as to whether Jesus would be willing to heal him. Jesus reaches out and touches the man. Imagine the pause with everyone peering in to hear what Jesus might say. "I am willing", he says, "be clean". Immediately the ailment left him, his skin newer than ever before.

We should note the importance of that key action that Jesus took: He reached out and touched. Touch communicates! It says clearly "I am with you", and shows identification with the man and his suffering. Jesus builds on that basic human to human communication by then saying "I am willing ...".

For us touch has become a no-no because of the virus. Even without the virus we as a society are much more sensitive about touch. Quite rightly - because some like touch but for others it is largely unwelcome: culturally we are more aware of inappropriate touch as well as appropriate.

For myself I miss that immediate sense we have in prayer ministry, one directly alongside another, often with the laying on of hands again as a sign of identification. Yet even in lockdown there have been times when to touch is simply the right thing to do.

As we come out of lockdown we are going to have to think and work hard regarding touch. If we are not careful there is a real risk of generating ongoing false stigma: on the level of the children's playground chant "don't touch him/her, or you might catch something", only worse. We are going to need to be sensitive to still not touching, but also awake to when we do need to touch: then appropriate physical touch will be the best form of communication.

I suspect that in future there will be situations begging for that close, personal ministry moment,  ministry that reaches across the stigma barrier. A moment of profound spiritual significance, reaching into the soul of someone through touch.

Let us not underestimate the power of coming alongside someone, of finding that point of contact, of appropriate use of touch, through which we can convey the willingness of God to heal and restore. A moment and an action through which we can speak healing in the name of Jesus, and the power of God can be at work.

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