Psychologists say that apart from listening intently to another person with eye contact, there are few things we will do on the earth to better communicate our love for another person like giving a hug.
Medical studies have found numerous benefits to hugging. Not only does hugging boost our body’s immune system, it also reduces stress and promotes attachment in our relationships.
When Jesus lived on Earth, I can’t imagine that He didn’t show his love and affection by embracing his disciples with a hug. If Peter, John and James ever had a bad day I think it would have been appropriate for Jesus to put His arm around them to comfort them.
So we might wonder… how might Jesus – who is spiritual – hug us today?
The same way He laughs with us, weeps with us, comforts us, and even feeds us — He does it through others in His spiritual body – the Church.
As Jesus touched the lives of his early disciples in His physical body, so now the Spirit touches our lives through his spiritual body.When we love someone, buy someone a meal, console someone, weep with someone, and pray for someone, then we are being Jesus to them.
Since the early church, the Holy Spirit has been working in and through His spiritual body so that his people could both express and receive His love.
Here’s what Luke, the author of Acts, writes about the early church:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Acts 2:42 (NASB)
In Greek, the word for “fellowship” was referred to as “koinonia,” which describes a togetherness that grows out of a common bond with Christ. This “fellowship” wasn’t just a group of people getting together for coffee after small group one evening. It was something much deeper. It was a group of people so filled with the Holy Spirit that with reckless abandonment, they loved another with every aspect of their lives.
Here’s what koinonia looked like then:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… (Acts 2:43-46)
The impact of koinonia cannot be underestimated. Their bond held them together despite extreme diversity. And they met the real needs of believers.
Today, we are still called to have this biblical fellowship with one another — a union with Christ that goes so deep that we recognize our union with one another and treat one another the way Jesus would treat us.
Here’s what koinonia looks like for us today when we both express and receive God’s love through and in his spiritual body:
We express our love for Christ by expressing our love for his people.We give our time and energy, our resources and emotions, as directed by the Holy Spirit, so that Christ who is in us can express His love for others.
We receive love from Christ when we receive love from God’s people.Let’s be honest, God is probably not going to call us on the phone! The way He’s going to reach out to us is by bringing one of His children into our life to express His love to us. He does it through an encouraging phonecall from a friend, or through someone helping in practical ways as we go through a difficult time.
This kind of love we express and receive isn’t about ooey-gooey feelings or warm emotions. It’s the kind of love that gives other people what they don’t deserve, caring for them out of obedience to Christ.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
This is how God spiritually hugs us.
To learn more about how giving and receiving God’s love in your ownlife, check out the series,Pathways to Intimacy with God.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip