Teaching Your Disciple How to Love #2: The Meaningful Touch

Creating an environment where affection is natural and meaningful is an essential component of the discipling process.  Not only is physical affection necessary between the discipler and his disciple, but it is also important for your disciples to be affectionate with one another.  As affection is a natural expression of love in a healthy family, so it should be among the children of God.

Four times the apostle Paul exhorts his disciples to be physically affectionate with one another by “Greeting one another with a holy kiss”  (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Robert Banks explains the significant role of affection among believers in his work Paul’s Idea of Community.  He argues:

Two final physical expressions of fellowship remain.  ‘Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.’ Paul says to his first converts in Thessalonica and to the recipients of his letters in Corinth and Rome.  To interpret this action as merely a formal or secondary procedure would be to underestimate its importance.  Not as significant as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it does, like the laying on of hands, play an important role in early Christian communal life.  By means of this action the bond between each member of the church was given real, not merely symbolic, expression. [1]

Luke’s writing gives us a glimpse into the freedom that Paul’s disciples had in expressing their affection with him.  ”When he (Paul) had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.” (Acts 20:36-37). Although our culture may be uncomfortable in expressing affection with a kiss, I do believe that our affection needs to go beyond a handshake; even strangers will exchange a handshake.

A mark of spiritual maturing in the life of a disciple is an ease of giving and receiving affection.  Awkwardness with affection could be an indicator of a deeper issue in the life of the disciple. It is also important for the discipler to monitor the affection between group members because it is an indicator how well the disciples are relating with one another.  It is difficult for a disciple to be affectionate with someone with whom he is disappointed or at odds.

[1] Banks, Robert, “Paul’s Idea of Community”, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), p.85.


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