Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 52

Galatians 2 v 6 – 10

Give us a Hug

I think it would be true to say that if the COVID restrictions had existed when I was a youngster, I would have probably breathed a sigh of relief. Not just because school would have been cancelled, but also because it would have put a temporary hold on Sunday visits to relatives. Most Sunday afternoons were taken up by loading all the family into dad’s truck or van, whichever he had at the time, and setting off to Rothwell near Leeds or Wakefield, to see mum’s relatives.

Now, due to dad’s role in the war he left the army with a driving licence but never actually passed a driving test and this was evident in his style of driving. Add this to the fact that mum had a very nervous disposition, the Sunday excursion inevitably degenerated into a nightmare journey of mum trying to persuade dad to slow down, not to drive so close to other cars, and to try to avoid every pot hole in the road.

I was permitted to take a toy with me, the intension being that on arrival at our destination, it would keep me quiet. This was successful for a short time but even the most favourite toy becomes tiresome after about twenty minutes, then it turns into a nuisance factor. If the weather was fine dad would take me for a walk round the garden but it was a very small garden. Eventually it came to the time go home, but it was also the time for hugs and kisses. I would hear mum shouting, ‘Come on Derek, give Grandad and Aunty a big hug and a kiss until next week’, and my heart sank into my boots. The aroma of moth balls, the overenthusiastic grip on the shoulders, the wet kiss on my ear, because I had turned my head away, were all a repeat of last week. I have never been one for hugs and kisses and I blame those experiences of family visits in the 1950s. However, in my more mature years I do recognise the value of such physical contact and recent news of the lifting of the restrictions on giving and receiving hugs from family and friends, is welcomed. Although the relaxation may appear to be insignificant in the great scheme of the return to normality, it is actually a major step forward.

Medical evidence has proved that giving and receiving a hug or an embrace has a positive effect on our mental well- being, lowers blood pressure, and increases our sense of security and assurance that we are not alone.

Of course it is not just hugs that have been prevented, handshakes have also been banned.  They have been replaced with touching shoulders or elbow which, as well meant as they may be, are no substitute for a good firm handshake. Symbolically a handshake has very serious computations none less than, we shake hands with our right hand, which historically is our sword hand. Consequently, you can’t attack someone with your sword if you are shaking hands, unless you happen to be left handed or ambidextrous. In some business circles the hand shake is still recognised as being an indication of an agreement. As we sign a contract, then an agreement is also binding through a handshake but it can also be a gesture of welcome, friendship, farewell and an offering of peace.

Despite regaining the freedom to embrace our family and friends, we are still reminded of the caveats that need to be applied. The danger from the spread of the virus has not left us and care is still needed. Avoid fascial contact, embrace outdoors, restrict hugs to family where possible, and take extra care with people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID. (Source Government Website).

 In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he relates to a meeting that took place between him, Barnabas, and several of the disciples. The meeting revolved around Paul’s right to describe himself as an apostle, and his theology used in preaching to the gentiles.  Paul had been open to criticism that he was not one of the twelve so could not be an apostle. In addition his theology of salvation by faith was in contrast to that of the Jewish converts and of Peter, James and John.

Throughout the meeting Paul maintained that he had met with the risen Lord Jesus face to face, (Damascus Road), and it was Jesus that commissioned him to preach to the gentiles. Accordingly he had every right to use the title of Apostle. Similarly his theology was no different to that preached by James and Peter to the Jews.

The meeting agreed that Paul is an apostle, accepted his theology and agreed that he should preach the gospel to the gentiles. The agreement was sealed with a hand shake, and no doubt an embrace.

Well I am going outside now wearing my face mask to give my grandchildren a big hug. The only problem is they are so tall I need a box to stand on.

Derek T.