Published by B&H Publishing on February 4, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Marriage
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Our culture is in a time when reports of inappropriate touch are commonplace. In the church, we’re not doing much better. On one hand, we give side hugs or instate six-inch rules. On the other, we find out—almost daily—about sexual misconduct, affairs, and abuse inflicted within our own walls. Singles are staying single longer, dating is wrought with angst over purity, and marriages struggle to not interpret all forms of touch as sexual.
We can’t even talk about touching our own bodies without the underlying assumption that it must be sexual. There is simply no place in our culture—and in the church—where touch doesn’t seem threatened or threatening. In the laws within the Old Testament, there is a form of one statement made 38 times: “Do not touch.” Everything seems off-limits to the people of God. But a curious thing happens in the New Testament when Jesus comes into his ministry: He touches. Jesus touches the sick and the outcasts, the bleeding and the unclean. What could it mean for families, singles, marriages, churches, communities, and the world to have healthy, pure, faithful, ministering touch? Somewhere in the mess of our assumptions and fears about touch, there is something beautiful and good and God-given. As Jesus can show us, there is ministry in touching.
“Just as there’s death and life in the power of the tongue, there is death and life in the power of the touch.” In Handle with Care: How Jesus Redeems the Power of Touch in Life and Ministry, popular blogger Lore Ferguson Wilbert explains that healthy physical touch is essential to life. Even though we are rightly wary of sinful touch, Jesus’s ministry exemplifies how touch can dignify others, express love, and help people receive forgiveness and healing. Wilbert draws on gospel narratives and other Scriptures throughout this book, clarifying issues that confuse our culture and the church.
She also shares deeply personal stories about her own experiences with healthy and unhealthy touch. As a child sexual abuse survivor, she writes with great sensitivity to readers for whom touch has been corrupted, but she rejoices that it is possible to reclaim touch in a Christlike, ministering way instead of practicing avoidance. Her writing honors the subjectivity of many forms of physical touch, and she urges her readers to be sensitive to context, personal history, and needs instead of applying prescriptive rules to every relationship.
In addition to teaching a biblical worldview of touch, Handle with Care also explores dynamics that affect singleness and marriage. Lore moves from the need for platonic and familial physical touch for all people – especially single people. With sensitivity, she writes about issues related to masturbation, and appropriate touch within dating relationships and marital intimacy.
Because Wilbert primarily designed this book for young adults and early marrieds, her applications have less relevance to older married adults, senior citizens, and those who have lost a spouse or experienced divorce. She also writes very little about appropriate touch with children. However, despite the limited scope of the author’s applications, this book provides a wealth of biblical guidance for how Christians can learn to think rightly about touch and redeem its God-given power as they minister to others.