We all did it… all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.
— Ephesians 2.3-4
God embraced us.
Dirty, corrupt, broken as we were—He embraced us. He pulled us in, all close and personal. And this embrace has brought us life.
“Greet one another with a holy embrace.” —2 Corinthians 13.12
Some versions of this Scripture say, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
That’s not something we Americans are particularly known for. Europeans do it. So do Middle-Easterners. And Ethiopians, Somalis, and Eritreans. But you just don’t see a whole lot of cheek-kissing as a form of greeting in the U.S. (and I for one am cool with that).
On Friday, the last day of our team’s work with the L.A. Dream Center, we went to MacArthur Park to hand out food and pray with people. While we were there, we met this one lady who drives 90 minutes to help—and she has done this for over 10 years. She is a real character.
Mike, one of the guys from our church, was talking with her… and I overheard him say something about how he was going to give her an “Irish kiss.” Mike is Irish, and Friday was Saint Patrick’s day. Before I could get my camera turned on and snap a picture, Mike had already planted a big one on her cheek.
I was bummed that I missed the shot. So I asked if he would do it again, this time for the camera. He said, “Sure,” and planted another one her cheek.
It seemed like she relished the attention. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and enjoying the moment.
A little while later, I was watching our team as they handed out food. I noticed Elizabeth, Mike’s 19-year-old daughter, put her hand on a man’s shoulder as she gave him a bag of food. This made me curious, so I kept watching.
She did the same thing to the next person, and the person after that. Elizabeth touched every person who came by. Sometimes, she would say something to them. Other times she would just smile. But every single time she handed someone a bag of food, she would touch their shoulder or arm.
As I realized what was happening, my eyes brimmed with tears. The sight was beautiful. I loved how she went beyond what could have been just a mechanical gesture of handing people a bag of food.
It was about so much more than that… it was about human contact. It was a holy embrace.
Later, I talked with Elizabeth. I told her what I saw… I wanted her to know what she had done was special. As I was talking with her, Elizabeth told me about how when she touched one individual, she felt the Holy Spirit whisper the word “healing” to her. She believed the Spirit was telling her to pray for that person’s healing as she touched their arm.
This makes me wonder how often we miss these kinds of connections and promptings of the Spirit when we keep barriers up between ourselves and others… when we keep people at arm’s length… when we stop short of a holy embrace.
All I know is that I need to learn from Elizabeth. While I might not go as far as her father—giving out “Irish kisses” on the street corner—I most certainly can open myself up for some holy embraces and Spirit-inspired prayers.
And so can you.