Hugging is an expression of love, comfort, and fellowship that can strengthen our relationships with God and others. While the word “hug” does not appear in scripture, the Bible has much to say about physical touch, affection, and unity within the body of Christ. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the scriptural basis for appropriate physical touch and examine what the Bible teaches about hugging.
- Hugs can be an expression of godly love, comfort, joy, and reconciliation when done appropriately.
- Scripture encourages appropriate physical touch between spouses, family, and fellow believers.
- Jesus often touched people to heal them and demonstrate compassion.
- Christians should be wise and discerning to avoid inappropriate touch that could lead to temptation.
- Physical touch can build unity, understanding, and care within the church.
- We must balance emotional needs for touch with moral purity and wisdom.
The Power of a Hug
A hug can communicate deep love and care. The simple act of embracing someone releases oxytocin which reduces stress, brings joy, and deepens bonding. When full of godly love, hugs have the power to lift our spirits, spread cheer, disarm strangers, reconcile relationships, and calm anxious hearts. The right hug at the right time can work wonders.
Even a brief hug can remind us that we are not alone. The writer of Hebrews instructs us to “Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1). A heartfelt hug allows us to literally “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) as we wrap our arms around each other. It is a way to encourage those who are disheartened, passing on the comfort we ourselves have received from the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Of course, not all hugs are created equal. We must balance our emotional need for appropriate touch with moral purity, wisdom, and care for others’ sensitivities. The rest of this article will dig into principles and scriptures to help us navigate hugging in a God-honoring manner.
Husbands and Wives
Marriage is the most intimate human relationship, and God designed spouses to meet each other’s needs for love, affection, and physical touch. The Bible celebrates married love and intimacy. Proverbs 5:19 encourages husbands to find satisfaction in their wife’s breasts and embrace. Song of Songs paints a beautiful poetic picture of the joys of married intimacy.
Within marriage, embracing and touching one another provides comfort, deepens intimacy, and unites husband and wife as one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This gift from God is to be cherished and protected within the marriage covenant. As Hebrews 13:4 reminds us, the marriage bed is to be kept undefiled and pure.
So while the world may exploit touch, God designed it to bless marriage. Husbands and wives can eagerly hug as an expression of selfless love, comfort in hard times, joy in good times, and reconciliation when needed. Enjoy this gift within God’s wise boundaries.
“Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19 NKJV)
Parents and Children
Touch is vital for children’s development and emotional health. Infants deprived of cuddling fail to thrive. God designed parents to meet their children’s needs for affection, security, and bonding through loving touch. We see both fathers and mothers hugging and kissing their children throughout scripture.
King David grieved the loss of his infant son, fasting and weeping while the child was alive in hopes he might be healed (2 Samuel 12:16). Though the child died, David found comfort in the knowledge that while alive “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). Surely David embraced his son while he lived.
The Prodigal Son’s father hugged and kissed his repentant son to demonstrate radical forgiveness and restoration of relationship (Luke 15:20). Fathers (and mothers) should seize opportunities to hug their children, reassuring them of their unconditional love. This models the gracious forgiveness of our perfect Heavenly Father.
The Shunammite woman who had lost her only son embraced him with joy and gratitude when the prophet Elisha raised him from the dead (2 Kings 4:20). Though our children may exasperate us at times, hugging them demonstrates Christlike forgiveness, restoration, and unconditional love.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NKJV)
Relatives and Close Friends
Scripture gives many examples of relatives and close friends expressing familial love through hugging and kissing. When Jacob was reunited with his beloved son Joseph after many years apart, “he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while” (Genesis 46:29). Kissing family members to greet them or say farewell was common in Bible times (see Genesis 27:26-27, Genesis 29:13, Genesis 31:28, Genesis 45:15, Acts 20:37). Close friends like David and Jonathan kissed as they wept together out of deep friendship (1 Samuel 20:41).
In Romans 16:16, Paul directs believers to “Greet one another with a holy kiss”. This demonstrates the mutual love and affection that should exist within the church, the spiritual family of all believers. Applying this today, we can greet relatives and close brothers and sisters in Christ with a brief yet sincere hug. This honors the spiritual bonds we share through Christ’s blood as adopted members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19).
“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ.” (1 Peter 5:14 NKJV)
Comforting the Grieving
Romans 12:15 instructs us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Part of extending comfort during times of grief is giving the blessing of one’s presence. Hugging a grieving person reminds them that though their loss is profound, they are not alone. Your embrace can help anchor them through waves of sorrow and transition.
We see that Jesus did not shy away from touching those deemed “unclean” under Jewish law (Luke 8:43-48). As modern day Pharisees, we can easily become preoccupied with avoiding impropriety. But Christ-like compassion calls us to offer hugs freely to the brokenhearted.
Of course we must use wisdom, being sensitive to any discomfort. But appropriate physical touch can speed healing after loss, communicating the Lord’s presence and care through you. As Ecclesiastes 4:10 states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor”. We can strengthen and return hope to mourning souls through the labor of love involved in hugging those who grieve.
“Weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NKJV)
Jesus often touched people to heal them, demonstrating God’s power and compassion. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with fever but touching her hand, Jesus “lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her” (Matthew 8:14-15).
A leper deemed an outcast begged Jesus to heal him if willing. Moved with compassion, Jesus did the unthinkable and touched him, saying “I am willing, be cleansed”, instantly healing his leprosy (Matthew 8:2-3).
Mark 6 and Luke 13 record Jesus tenderly taking children in his arms and hugging them while blessing them. He welcomed and embraced those seen as too unimportant for a rabbi’s time.
Jesus’ healing touch profoundly impacted those he hugged, filling them with a sense of worth and belonging. When Christians embrace the untouchables of our day—the poor, imprisoned, sick, oppressed— we pass on Jesus’ compassion that can uplift their souls and open hearts to the gospel.
“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15 NKJV)
Unity and Reconciliation
Differences and offenses can divide people, even believers. But hugging someone demonstrates forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity. Romans 16:16’s exhortation to “greet one another with a holy kiss” reminds Christians to set aside differences to extend sincere love.
Ephesians 4:32 commands us to be kind and tenderhearted toward one another. Appropriate hugging is one way to build understanding and harmony within the church, the body of Christ. As Paul ask in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another?” A warm hug can restore care between estranged members.
The father of the Prodigal Son hugged and kissed his wayward boy despite their strained relationship, building a bridge back to restoration (Luke 15:20). Extending a sincere hug, regardless of background or past wrongs, opens the door for Christlike reconciliation.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV)
Principles for Hugging Well
While scripture shows appropriate hugging between the right people at the right times, we must balance meeting needs for touch with moral and relational wisdom:
1. Honor God’s Design for Sexuality
Any form of touching should align with God’s design for gender and sexuality. Romans 12:17 cautions us to “provide things honest in the sight of all men.” It is wise to offer side-hugs and limit full pressing of bodies to short times. Be aware of any romantic or lustful pitfalls to avoid temptation. Save full embrace for marriage.
2. Respect Boundaries
Some people suffer trauma or have sensitivities around touch. Jesus showed compassion and care for hurting people. We follow his example when we avoid pushing hugs on those who do not welcome them. Find healthy non-physical ways to build connection.
3. Use Pure Motives with Wisdom
Examine your motivations. Hug to communicate sincere care, not merely to satisfy your own longings. Be wise and discerning to avoid any inappropriate entanglements. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts for from it flow the issues of life. Seek purity in body and in spirit.
4. Offer Comfort, Not Smothering
Our love and empathy for others’ pain can inspire overly-smothering hugs that provide more distress than comfort. Offer contact in small doses that bless without overwhelming. Follow the person’s cues while praying for wisdom and care that honors Christ.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Romans 12:15-16 NKJV)
Conclusion and Application
While the Bible does not directly address hugging, we see appropriate touch between people who have godly bonds of marriage, family, friendship, and church unity. The principles and examples offer wisdom for expressing platonic affection and comfort through hugs when done with discretion, sincerity and care.
The key is developing Christlike empathy and compassion for others while avoiding contact that creates improper physical or soulish entanglements. Through prayer and God’s grace, we can become “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16) in our use of hugging and touch.
As believers, may we use this gift to strengthen marriages and families, comfort grieving souls, heal broken relationships, and build loving unity within Christ’s body, the church. Let us follow Jesus’ pattern of compassion as we embrace this troubled world, passing on the comfort we have received from the God of all comfort through appropriate and holy hugs.