There is a therapeutic element to physical contact. Studies have shown that affectionate touch is critical for a child’s development in all dimensions – social, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Babies and infants who a deprived of adequate contact and interaction with parents or caregivers are at much higher risk for mental and social impairment later in life.
Not only does physical touch lead to proper human development, it can also mean the difference between life and death in premature newborns. Affectionate human contact can instill an amazing resiliency in newborns that would have no chance of pulling through otherwise. Also, touch therapy and therapeutic massage can increase recovery times and lower stress among the elderly and surgery patients.
Beyond that, we are a society that appreciates the value of physical contact. Hugging our children and long-time friends — kissing our spouse and holding their hand — giving a good firm hand shake to that person we just met — a pat on the back or high five for a job well done. People need to feel the warmth of another person’s touch in order to maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
When we look to the ministry of Jesus, he could simply say the words and a person could be healed of whatever ailed them. However, there were many cases in which he included some form of physical touch, especially when the person had not had physical contact with another human being for some time (i.e. the leper in Mark 1 and the woman with the bleeding problem in Mark 5).
We are created in the image of God. When God created man, he actually reached down and formed man from the dust of the ground. We are God’s workmanship, his masterpiece, the work of his hands. Language is used throughout Scripture picturing God taking his people by the hand and leading them (i.e. out of Egypt, into the promised land, etc.). David describes God as the one who lifts up David’s weary head. We all are longing for God’s touch. We all desire to feel our Creator’s hands once again. Yet we are all created in the image of God, and we all contain the Spirit of God.
The power of human touch cannot be explained away in mere scientific terms. Science can’t explain why a mother’s kiss will heal a booboo. Chemistry can’t tell you why it makes us feel better to cry into someone’s shoulder. Biology cannot fathom what would make a person touch another person with an incredibly contagious disease. The power of human touch only make sense because of whose image we bear.