Being loved is one of our very basic needs. Sadly, many children’s only experience of nurture involves shouting and slapping; they can grow up to believe that is all there is to love. Some people, mainly, but not exclusively, men, understand love in terms of controlling someone, having power over them; and some, mainly, but not exclusively women, only understand love in terms of being controlled. Some can only imagine love as the delight of physical intimacy in which two people trust each other with their naked bodies, and sometimes there is little more than that.
Paul shows his ongoing concern for the Corinthians from the start; he thinks of them every day. How we all benefit from someone who keeps us in their thoughts every day! He praises them for their achievements. How we all need to be affirmed in our struggles! There is no evidence that Paul was a touchy-feely person, and his love may have been deficient in this respect. We all benefit from close and warm contact with chosen others; a throwback to blizzard nights huddling with dogs and children round cave-mouth fires. We remember the value of relaxed skin contact for babies if they are to grow up with a healthy appreciation of others.
Paul wrote a lot about love in chapter 13, an inspirational instruction. It is hard to see how the church could later have been burning people slowly to death for their beliefs when they had this example of love before them. What horrors are we perpetrating today which future Christians will find revolting?
Jesus did a lot of touching. He touched lepers whom no one else would go near. Most of his healing was conducted through touch. People glow when they are touched by someone whom they respect, whom they hold on a pedestal. No wonder it made them feel better! Many people in our society are hungry for touch, even in the middle of rush-hour crowds. Accidental brushing past is no substitute for deliberate acknowledgement of our appreciation of touch.
Wearing a “Free Hugs!” T-shirt has its place, but assuring people that we are holding them in our thoughts; affirming their struggles; loving them enough to know whether they would welcome a cuddle; these are all gifts we can give with no effort, no cost, and with positive benefits to our own happiness.