Jake is an eighteen year old whose life is a clear demonstration of divine grace. I heard him share his story this past weekend with his church family . He shared truths about the comfort of God during the trials of life, a topic about which circumstances have made him highly qualified to speak.
When Jake was born, it soon became apparent that his parents would not be able to care for him in the way all babies need. Because of this fact, his dad’s mother, a Christian, brought him into her home when he was an infant. He lives with her until this day.
“One day when I was about five,” he explained, “I learned that earlier that week my mother had taken her own mother’s life.” As Jake shared the horror he felt as a young child when he learned that his grandmother had been murdered by his own mother, many who listened wiped tears of compassion from their eyes.
“Years later,” he continued, “I opened a letter one day. It was from my mother, who is in prison. I soon learned that it had been addressed to my sister, not me.” The letter said, “you were conceived in love, but Jacob was not.” “You can imagine how that would make you feel,” he said.
Jake then described how he had first come to attend the church where he was speaking. He talked about how he had met Jesus Christ there and had come to understand His love. “All I had to do was accept His comfort and His love,” he explained. “Maybe you need God’s comfort in your own life,” he concluded. “He’s there, waiting for you to trust Him.”
A story this intense, told by an eighteen year old, touched the whole congregation. When the service was over, teary eyed people crowded around Jake. They each hugged him and spoke words of appreciation and affirmation to him. It was Love personified in the body of Christ, a Divine response through the corporate action of God’s church.
As my wife, Melanie, and I awaited our chance to speak to him, his grandmother jokingly commented, “I think he comes here for the hugs.” As we drove back home later, I commented to Melanie that Jake’s grandmother’s observation was a profound commentary on the church. “He comes here for the hugs” she had said.
What a tribute to God’s church in general and that church in particular! Is there any other place in the world where a boy who missed the parental hugs necessary to nurture life could find such an outpouring of love? The ministry of hugs – what an expression of Jesus in action!
I believe the Father’s heart can been seen in a hug. It may be that there is a supernatural exchange conveyed in a hug between two Christians that defies explanation. A holy hug brings God’s heart right out into the open.
When the Apostle Paul once preached until midnight in one church, a young man sitting on a window ledge fell asleep and fell out the window. Rushing out to where he lay below, the Bible says that “Paul threw himself on him and hugged him. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘He is still alive!'” (Acts 20:10, TEV). Hugging people back to health – that was Paul’s style. In Luke 15, when the prodigal son came home his dad “ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” A hug and kiss – that’s our Father’s heart.
I love the story of Jesus with His disciples in the upper room. John 13 describes the scenario where Jesus is sharing final thoughts with His disciples in the last hours before He was to go to the cross. Right in the middle of this chapter, there is a verse that seems to be almost an incidental notation. It says, “One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against Him, his head on His shoulder” (John 13:23). Why does the Bible tell the posture of one man who happened to be sitting in the room at the time?
It’s because the man described there is the one who wrote that verse. John loved to refer to himself as “the one who Jesus loved dearly.” It seems like he was making a point – “Jesus was talking to us all, but He was hugging me!” A hugging Jesus – that’s the One who loves you dearly too!
A hug – is anything more powerful, more spiritual, more Godlike? It became apparent to me this past Sunday as I watched Jake’s church that he won’t ever lack for hugs. His heavenly Father has seen to that. I watched his Abba hug him many times after that service, through the arms of others. I couldn’t resist hugging him myself, and not just because he is my nephew.
Do you want to do a Jesus thing? Find somebody who needs a hug and give it to them. That won’t be a hard task because the truth is that we all could use a hug. Some desperately need it. A hug is the heart of God in action toward others. Go ahead. Find somebody and hug them back to health. Your Father will be proud.