God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8
Pastor Vicky MootsKingman, Kansas
Ecc. 3:5b: “…a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” To “embrace” means to “clasp in the arms, usually in an expression of affection or desire, to hug.” It can also mean “to accept readily, to encircle with the arms or to cling to.” This can refer to embracing people, things, ideas or actions.
Let’s start with the thought of embracing people. We usually hug people whom we care about to show them that we love them. Currently, during this pandemic, we have been told to refrain from embracing and to practice social distancing to avoid spreading the virus. But I feel that this lack of closeness with other people has partially contributed to the mistrust and civil unrest that we have seen recently in our nation.
Jesus expressed His love for the little children who were brought to Him by their parents in Mark 10:16, where it says, “…he took them up in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.” The disciples thought that Jesus would not take the time to be bothered by them, but He showed them that it was “a time to embrace” children because they were important to Him, and they should be important to us also. Our children need to be embraced and taught to embrace Jesus while they are young.
We find a more intimate type of embracing described in S.O.S. 2:6, which is a picture of the spiritual relationship of Christ and His bride: “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” The Lord desires to be so close to us that there is nothing between us in our relationship with Him as He holds us securely with His strong right arm.
Oh, how we need to let His arms encircle us and embrace us tightly today in this troubled world so that we may be at peace. But we also need to seek that intimate place of closeness with Him as our Bridegroom. That is the place which the apostle Paul stated in II Cor. 11:2 was his desire for us as believers: “…for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Are you willing to accept that espousal? Now is the time to embrace Christ as your preeminent love, to cling to Him and His Word instead of the things of this world.
What other things should we embrace? Solomon instructs us in Prov. 4:7-8 to embrace wisdom: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom…she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.” True wisdom comes from above, not from man. We are to encircle wisdom with our arms and tightly cling to it. Jesus Himself is the personification of wisdom, and so is the Word, for Jesus is the Word. When we lay hold of God’s Word, it will bring us to honour and not to shame.
We can also embrace those things which we cannot see, but which God has promised. They may be future but can become real to us now by faith, as we read in Heb. 11:13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them…”
Many people today doubt that Jesus will come again, saying, “…Where is the promise of his coming...” (II Peter 3:4). But we can eagerly embrace it as if it were to happen today, as Peter tells us in II Pet. 3:8-9: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward…”
Now, what about the things that we should not embrace? When is it a time to refrain from embracing? Jesus embraced sinners, not with His arms, but with His love. However, He did not embrace their actions. He told them to “go and sin no more.” We should follow His example in embracing them with our love. We can associate with them, as He did, but we must be careful not to become associated with their lifestyle while we witness to them. We should socially distance ourselves from even the appearance of evil.
In conclusion, is there ever a time for Christians to refrain from embracing each other? We love to embrace our spiritual brothers and sisters at church and fellowship meetings, but we can be sure that Satan is looking for any opportunity to cause us to stumble or for our actions to be evil spoken of. Embracing the opposite sex can be looked upon by unbelievers as an intimate gesture and be taken the wrong way.
Embracing means any encircling of the arm which would include coming alongside a person and placing your arm around the back of their neck to their opposite shoulder. Even innocent physical contact can be construed as sexual in nature. This is one reason why Paul warned Christian men in I Cor. 7:1, stating, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
Billy Graham was so careful concerning this that he would not even enter an elevator if there was a woman in it alone, in order that he could not be falsely accused of touching a woman. He avoided slander of any kind in his ministry by following Paul’s advice.
The proper “time to embrace” is in the presence of other believers, and the “time to refrain from embracing” is any time or any place where the motive for your actions could be misinterpreted as more than just a friendly hug. Therefore, I would suggest to all Christian men that before you hug a woman at church, you should ask her permission first, and it should never take place in a room where you are alone with her.
By taking these precautions, you will be following Paul’s wise counsel in Rom. 14:16: “Let not your good be evil spoken of.”
Please be assured that nothing that I have said was intended to keep us from expressing our Christian love to each other by hugging. It is only to say that there is “a time to embrace” and “a time to refrain from embracing,” as Solomon had stated so many years ago.