You may remember the study done in the 1950’s with baby rhesus monkeys. In the experiment, they put a surrogate mother in each of two baby monkey’s cages. One of the surrogate mothers was soft, cuddly, warm, and made of cloth, but was designed NOT to provide food. The surrogate mother in the other cage was made of wire, that had a bottle attached to it. Where do you think the baby monkeys spent their time? They were always snuggling up to this warm, cuddly, cloth mama. And just when they were at the point of starvation, they would scamper over to the side of the cage, get a squirt of milk, and then dive back into their mother’s arms.
Today, doctors believe that TOUCH is an important component to a baby’s immune system. In fact, premature babies who are massaged gain weight 47% faster and go home sooner. Even as adults, when we receive a massage, that can cure anxiety, release tension, and smooth out the trouble spots on our bodies and in our minds. And so, we have this thing that is good for us. And yet, in society today, we are receiving it less and less. Why? Two reasons.
First, we live in a time of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal, and the #MeToo movement. Today teachers, coaches, and even pastors are afraid to touch people. Now, we need to be realistic about the world we live in, and recognize that touch has been used to exploit people. So, we have to be sensitive to the feelings of others, and learn now to give non-threatening, non-sexual, sisterly and brotherly in Jesus Christ, -- encouraging touch.
I think the second reason we see it less and less is because of technology. AT&T’s slogan, “Reach Out and Touch Someone” really means to have them connect you by telephone to someone. In addition to cell phones, there are computers, the ATM machine, the self-checkout at the grocery store, online ordering, -- these are all ways of doing without people, but what we used to need people to do.
Friends, in a high-tech world, we need to be a high-touch church. Believe it or not, God wants to be intimate with us. I love the way the writer, Merle Shain, defines “Intimacy.” “Intimacy is a haven where your vulnerabilities don’t humiliate you and all your funny lines are understood. It’s knowing someone so well, you can no longer tell where they begin and you leave off. As in the cartoon in which one old person says to the other, ‘Now which one of us doesn’t like broccoli.’ It’s an eye that catches yours across the room. It’s pet names and making plans. A cup of tea brought to bed. It’s a hug when you need it and even when you don’t. It’s always knowing you have a date on Saturday night.” How intimate is God with us? Jesus said, “I will not leave you desolate. I will come to you. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). In other words, “You won’t be able to tell where I leave off and you begin.” That’s the intimacy that we have with Jesus Christ, and the desire he has for us in how we love and treat one another.
This Sunday, May 1, I am starting a brand new sermon series titled, “The Five Love Languages of God.” We will look at the first of the love languages, -- physical touch. Please join us in the sanctuary at either 8:00 am or 10:30 am. For the 10:30 service, we will also be broadcasting on Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube.