I want to be a Hugger

Hugger
noun
one who hugs esp. a person who instinctively initiates the act of hugging.

I am not a Hugger.

This is not to say that I am opposed to hugging. I generally don’t resist a Hugger’s advances or embrace. I don’t plant my arms firmly by my side, or suddenly back away such that I become an unwilling victim of a strange Judo clasp. Once hugged, I engage.

I even enjoy hugging. But I am not naturally a hug initiator, except in a very small circle of trust. This circle contains my wife, all 7 of our children and pretty much no-one else. Here my life as a Hugger generally begins and ends.

TRUE Huggers (as distinct from tree huggers*) don’t really have a circle of trust. Or if they do the circle extends so far as to blend in with the horizon. True Huggers instinctively take the lead in embracing people from all walks of life as an act of welcome, farewell, celebration, comfort, encouragement, excitement, intervention, contrition, spontaneity or any other reason that a hug may seem appropriate (or not).

Huggers don’t necessarily need a reason or even a specific person to hug, it’s just part of their DNA.

I know people like this. You may be like this. My wife is like this. She’s a bit like this guy…

Hugging of an almost indiscriminate nature.

Non-Huggers view this kind of behaviour and experience feelings ranging from nervousness to disgust. Whereas the Huggers amongst us are now inspired and desperately need to envelope someone in their arms.

I stand in the middle, trapped between those who openly embrace and those who do not. More than being trapped, I am actually conflicted. I am fascinated by Huggers. I admire them. I am not one of them, but I would love to be. And depending on where you stand on the Non-Hugger/Hugger scale you would either vehemently denounce, nervously support or joyfully celebrate my aspiration.

I am not a Hugger, yet. But I’ve come to the conclusion that… God is a Hugger.

Before you disagree, stop reading, or decry my statement as either:
a) blasphemy;
b) heresy;
c) the crazed murmurings of a man who has been hugged a little too often (because he has 7 children and a wife who is a Hugger);
d) the crazed murmurings of a man in desperate need of a hug (because even though his wife is a Hugger he has 7 children and can’t get near her); or,
e) all of the above
… before you come to any or all of those conclusions, please hear me out.

In the Bible, throughout the Old Testament, we read of a God who is far from passive in pursuing relationship with His creation. God clearly desires and actively pursues relationship with human beings far more than they desire and pursue relationship with their creator. Time and time again God provides, blesses, forgives, rescues, guides, and loves people. In response, more often than not, people distrust, disrespect, disregard and disobey God.

God seeks to embrace people and, rather than return His embrace, these people plant their arms by their side, back away, ignore God’s advances or head in a completely different direction. God’s wrath becomes most evident when people blatantly ignore His will, plan, purpose and calling for their life. When they choose to worship a statue of a golden calf over the Living God or sacrifice their own children to appease a god that doesn’t exist.

God initiates and demonstrates love, mercy, forgiveness, restoration, blessing, provision and grace. God is a Hugger and this is exemplified through Jesus.

Jesus embraces the marginalised, excluded and reviled people of His time. He embraces the sick, disabled and socially isolated. He embraces tax collectors, prostitutes, single mums, soldiers, priests, children, and people from diverse races and cultures. He loves, has compassion on, heals, feeds, forgives and challenges people.

Everywhere Jesus goes people flock to Him and He embraces them. Not because they deserve His embrace. Not because they are in His circle of trust, but simply because of who He is.

Jesus tells a story of a Dad and his two sons (Luke 15:11-32) in which the Dad’s heart is to embrace his children and pour out his blessing and affection on them even when they make poor choices. The Dad is representative of God’s heart for us.

An online Christian action platform, titled Common Grace, is about to launch in Australia. Their tagline, More like Jesus. Less like jerks, positions the platform almost in opposition to the so-called conservative Christian voice that has pervaded politics in countries such as the United States and Australia for the past three decades. It’s early days, but it would appear that Common Grace seeks to operate with humility, inclusion and grace, filling the vacuum left by the dominant political voice of Christian faith known more for its aggressive moral outrage, nationalism, arrogance and exclusivity.

Grace is central to the good news of the Christian gospel and yet it is often absent in the Christian voice of political debate.

Scriptural passages such as Ephesians 2:8,9 are hardly ambiguous about our purpose, role and intended future: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Jesus is a hugger. And His hug is the personification of grace. In these terms, grace could be defined as the unearned, undeserved and unconditional embrace of Jesus. The embrace of Jesus that takes our brokenness, sin, fear, doubts, failures, sickness and wraps them up in His arms and in doing so clothes us in righteousness.

Faith, in that context, becomes very simple. Faith is how we respond to Jesus’ embrace.

Living a life of faith is about living in such a way that we hold onto Jesus in every moment, place and circumstance.
Our faith is defined by how we embrace a God who embraces us. How we embrace love, forgiveness, mercy, gratitude, encouragement, trust, prayer, worship, life, people, trials, reconciliation, generosity, humility and justice. I want to be a Hugger but this is only possible in responding to Jesus’ embrace and embodying who He is through my life.

I want to be a Hugger not so much in the sense of physically hugging everyone, rather I see it as a witness to how I believe Jesus wants us to respond to Him and how He wants us to live our lives with and through Him.

I want to be a Hugger because I want to be more like Jesus, and less like a jerk.

And so my Hugger journey continues.
Care to join me?


*not that there’s anything wrong with that

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