Humans were designed for touch. We were designed for contact. When I am stressed or upset, the moment hands are on me or I receive a hug, I feel instantly better. That's because when God created touch, it was out of love and meant for good. Touch was designed for uplifting the weak, comforting the broken, healing the hurt and expressing pure love. Within the safe boundaries of marriage, sexual touch is a God-ordained pathway to intimacy between man and woman. That expression of is a profound metaphor for God's love for the church, His bride.
But in a world full of sin, the intentions of touch have been twisted, manipulated and defiled by the enemy. Rather than being used for its intended purpose—as an extension of the love of God toward His people, through His people—touch is sometimes forced, without consent, and it is wreaking havoc in and outside of the body of Christ. In light of this, we must ask ourselves, "How can we touch people with the love of God in a world where contact is sometimes unwanted and used for evil?"
For years the topic of inappropriate touch, especially within the church, has been pushed under the rug. But today millions of men and women are speaking out and sharing their stories of becoming victims of unwanted contact. Their voices are brave, and their stories issue a clarion call to action. They prompt us to question, "How can we as ministers effectively minister to those in need during the era of the #MeToo movement and help heal the hurts caused by the violation of consent? How can we be a part of the solution, helping prevent inappropriate, unwelcomed touch before it happens?"
We can begin by harnessing the power of observation to present a truly Christlike example of the power of touch. It is our job to lead the charge and model for our congregations what it looks like to show respect and extend His love well. This may mean taking a fresh look at the Word of God to understand the purpose of touch and what we must do to keep our leaders away from the appearance of evil. We must ensure our leaders and congregations understand that just as touch has the power to heal, it also has the power to pervert. Used rightly, it is a conduit through which the Holy Spirit can minister. Applied wrongly, without consent, it is, at best, a barrier to the throne.
My generation saw the hippie movement, the Jesus Movement. Touching, hugging and kissing were not only common but welcome. We must not hesitate to bring the life and words of Jesus to this generation, but there must be a fresh and explicit invitation for people to come to the one who wants to touch them with love. We must always ask for consent to lay hands on people, hug people or even pray for people.
It is important to remember that God is a gentleman. He will never do anything in our lives without permission in that area. We must operate in our churches the same way. We cannot force prayer on people who do not want prayer. We cannot force God's healing power on people who do not first accept the invitation and agree to be touched. We cannot break the boundary of unwanted touch and expect people to respond positively to the Word of God. The stakes are obviously high, but I will take it a step further: to choose not to respect people's choice over when and how they are touched is to lose respect for the privilege we have been given as a church to minister to lost, dying and hurting people.
Do not misunderstand. I am not suggesting that we should not try to pray for the hurting, heal the sick or try to bring people into the kingdom of God. But the best and most effective way for us to minister to people is by respecting them and not forcing ourselves upon them. We must ask before we pray publicly for people. We must ask before we comfort people with a hug or other gesture. We must ask and be the example to the world to ask before they touch.
The church must be the example for the world. There are real men and women who have been wrongly touched and without consent and are hurting because of it. As the church and leaders within the church, we cannot ignore this fact. Rather we must be the among the first to respond to it. We must make our churches a safe environment for every person, regardless of religious traditions. We must train our volunteers, staff and leaders to respect people's right to be touched or not be touched by first asking. And in doing so, we will show God's love to a generation so desperate to be touched by Him more effectively and powerfully than ever before.
Mikel French has challenged spiritual awakening all across America, where many celebrations extended into multiple weeks, and has conducted celebrations in France, Sweden, Russia, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Germany, South Africa, Malawi, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Haiti, Japan, Singapore, India and Thailand. He conducted an outreach celebration in Manila, Philippines, reaching 200,000 teenagers with the Book of Hope. Through the generous support of partners, he has presented the message of Jesus Christ to millions of people in the nation of Russia through televised citywide soul-winning celebrations. Mikel considers it an honor to assist in conducting the annual pastor's conference, where thousands of pastors from Russia's 11 time zones come for training, teaching and equipping. Mikel and his wife, Marsha, reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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