Kolar: Healing the nation, one light touch at a time

"Sometimes, when we hear someone is sick, grief-stricken, or struggling, our instinct is to shy away. But often, what is needed is the exact opposite," writes Janel Kolar.

Rev. Janel F. Kolar is the pastor at First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Dickinson, North Dakota.
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Luke 4:40 (ESV) — 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

The old favorite hymn, “He touched me” is a favorite of mine. I believe human touch is one of the most powerful tools God gave us. Jesus used touch in many instances, for example he used touch to heal a man with leprosy in a city in Galilee; Peter’s mother in law, a 12-year-old girl, two blind men, and “many people in a crowd” in Capernaum; a “few people” in Nazareth; a man who was deaf and could hardly talk in the Decapolis; a blind man just outside Bethsaida, a blind man in Jerusalem, a woman who could not stand straight in the synagogue, two blind men near Jericho, and a servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden of Gethsemane. Of course, Jesus also healed people without touching them, but touch was important in his ministry and because it was important to him, it should be important to us.

I often wonder how long it had been since someone touched some of those people. The fear of spreading disease and inheriting someone’s “uncleanliness” was very real to the first century middle eastern people. When you don’t get enough physical touch, you can become stressed, anxious, or depressed. As a response to stress, your body makes a hormone called cortisol. This can cause your heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and breathing rate to go up, with bad effects for your immune and digestive systems.

Conversely, when you engage in pleasant touch, like a hug, your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. This makes you feel good and firms up emotional and social bonds while lowering anxiety and fear.

Sometimes, when we hear someone is sick, grief-stricken, or struggling, our instinct is to shy away. But often, what is needed is the exact opposite. It is when we are sick, grief-stricken or struggling that a simple touch can communicate our willingness to bear one anothers’ burdens. It doesn’t have to be anything big – a touch on the elbow or shoulder can be as powerful as a hug if that’s all you can muster. Just do what Jesus did, because the healing of the nations might just begin with one light touch at a time.

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