I’ve been thinking about leprosy. I know, I know; that is a weird subject to be mulling over in my head. It is not something you hear much about these days, but I was reading in the Book of Matthew, and thinking about the leper Jesus healed. Chewing on this food for thought brings forth a very important subject that we all need to examine for ourselves. Please bear with me as I try to explain.
If you don’t know anything else about leprosy, I am sure you know that it is contagious and was highly feared in ancient times as there was no cure. The Hebrews were instructed to put those with leprosy outside the camp. So, I started thinking about how leprosy shares similarities with sin.
Leprosy is an infectious disease that primarily affects skin and nerves. It causes disfiguring skin sores, eventually bringing about the loss of fingers, toes and even limbs. In the Bible days, those with leprosy were treated as outcasts. There was no cure, so if the Lord did not heal the person, they had to endure a lonely, painful existence as a leper.
Leprosy is extremely contagious and makes one hideous to look upon. Leprosy can also be contracted and lay dormant for YEARS. It can be contracted in childhood and manifest once the person reaches their mid 30s!
Sin is also highly contagious. And parents can, and often do, instill the infection of sin and demonic strongholds in their children, only to have them manifest in their lives when they reach their mid-20s-30s! Sin and its hideousness of heart can be hidden, at least for a time. However, once revealed, sin can make one a repulsive spectacle to look upon.
Leprosy provides quite the visual analogy of sin and what it does through its destruction to the lives of individuals. As leprosy eats away at the body, so sin eats away at soul, mind and body. The longer this condition is left to fester, the worse its effects become.
In Matthew 8, Jesus was approached by a man with leprosy. This man, who was unquestionably an outcast and forbidden to be in the presence of others without crying out “unclean,” cast caution to the wind in his effort to be delivered from his affliction. The thing that stood out to me in this account, however, is the fact that Jesus reached out and TOUCHED this leprous man. Jesus did not have to touch this man to heal him, but He did AND while amid a large crowd! (Matthew 8:1-4)
Nobody else would touch this man. They did not want to become contaminated, contracting his vile condition. The Pharisees wouldn’t touch him, and neither would anyone else! He was shunned, treated with hate and disdain. It is possible that he didn’t have contact with others, or even so much as a smile for years. Jesus is the one who had compassion for and mercy on this unfortunate man.
Today, how many are walking around with leprosy of heart and needing the healing touch from the purifier of men’s souls?
I have watched believers have the same attitude and behavior towards those whose sins are revealed to them as the ancient church folks exhibited towards the lepers of their day.
By law, in the Bible days, lepers had to be separated so as not to infect others. But, from Scripture we know that they could have been healed. And there was even an offering to be given in the event this occurred (Matthew 8:4).
But with the way lepers were treated, I wonder who even cared enough to pray for them to be healed! People who didn’t even want to breathe the same air or who would throw rocks at lepers are not thinking about praying for them. They are not looking at their plight, realizing what it would be like if the tables were turned. No, such people wouldn’t be bothered to pray for lepers. They would more likely prefer them dead.
I have seen/heard believers take this same attitude towards those whose particular sin was uncovered. Now, like the leper, this person’s condition is exposed for all to see.
Sometimes I am taken aback at how some professing believers can so adamantly claim Christ as their Lord but not care one iota about how they treat and talk about others.
We will often hear professing Christ followers say, “hate the sin but love the sinner.” But hear their words regarding the sinner, and you wonder if their motto isn’t indeed to hate sin and sinner alike. Let’s examine hatred for just a moment.
Think about that for a moment. During ancient times people hated lepers, even though their condition was not their fault. Fear is what fueled such behavior, but that’s a subject for another time.
How do you talk about others, think about others, treat others? What about when individual’s leprous heart is revealed? Aaah…there’s the rub!
I have heard individuals say things about those who have fallen, been deceived etc.…. that made me cringe inside. Why? Because that is not how Jesus treated individuals who were trapped in sin. That is not how he treated those who were even caught red handed, so to speak. Yet, these individuals basically take the position of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, only words are their choice of stones to throw.
Concern for Leprous Souls
Instead of seeing the person as a soul the enemy is trying fervently to pull into the pit of hell, we too often join him in the effort and begin to push!
It is amazing to me how we can flip the script so fast on those we say we love. How we can change and become so vicious, wishing them harm, disparaging them, looking and thinking about them as though they were the nastiest thing one can pull out of a sewage tank…
How can we go from love to hate so quickly? It’s not right, and I highly doubt the Lord approves of such behaviors, no matter how we try to justify it! Such situations often reveal issues hidden within one’s own heart; consider that.
In truth, such individuals are sick. They are leprous souls. And if they were ever a part of the fold, and have been wooed away by a shrewd enemy, deep down they already know of their hell bound condition.
They walk in confusion; their hearts and minds gradually devoured by the disease of sin. These souls are in need of the restorative power of the Holy Ghost, and the love of those who will at least care enough to pray. Some will even admit they want to stop; they don’t want to continue in the evil ways they have grown accustomed to. Deep down, they want help. But if you hate them, you will not care.
Don’t get me wrong, I know people can do some extremely horrendous things that would make one recoil at the very thought; however, their evil deeds do not justify our evil thoughts, words, or deeds about/towards them. We must look at it that way, because God will call all such behavior evil, whether that of a sinner or one cloaked in church garb and caring the Good Book. In other words, 2 wrongs don’t make a right.
Those individuals are still souls who are of great value to the Lord and should be to us as well. They are souls bound for an eternity that is so terrible, one should not want their worst enemy to go there. They are souls for whom Jesus died. They are souls the enemy wants to permanently destroy. Souls, being eaten alive by the leprosy of sin. Will you touch the leper? Jesus did!
Who are You?
As children of God, we are to always be salt and light, in every circumstance. There may be times we have to speak TRUTH, but how we speak that truth matters! When people do wicked deeds, we should not find joy in their actions, and we cannot give approval of any kind…no matter who it is. Nevertheless, how we think, speak, and behave regarding these unfortunate souls matters!
Before you start adding in “what ifs” and scenarios I have not brought up, nobody is saying you must live with those who have chosen the devil’s path, or allow their demon driven actions to permanently destroy you. And I hope everyone realizes you can’t use “love” as an excuse to join others on their path of sin. No! We must remain people of obedience to God, love, mercy, and compassion even in the lion’s den.
When you really start to think about personal weaknesses, our own disobedience and our own failures in comparison to epitome of perfection, Jesus Christ…we have no room to be unmerciful, unkind, and unloving towards others for any reason.
The Bible says there is NOTHING good in us (Romans 7:18;). All our goodness, our righteousness, are as filthy rags (I’ll let you research that to realize just how worthless and disgusting that is.)
So, oh confident Christian, remember there’s a fine line between confidence and pride. It is very easy for us to take the same position of the pharisees in all things, small or great.
What Will You Do?
There is a slim to none chance most of us will ever encounter a leper in our lifetime. However, we meet souls long steeped in sin nearly every day. We encounter individuals who, if some only new the things they have done, would surely be treated as leprous outcasts.
I guess everyone has at least one thing they really can’t stand. For my grandmother it was kicking someone; if you wanted her to get really angry just let her see you kick someone. I have another relative who can’t stand adultery. Considering what we have uncovered in this discussion today, God might actually say they have a vicious hatred for adultery and adulterers.
As believers, however, we cannot have our picks and chooses of what sinners we will “tolerate” enough to show kindness and which we will place in the reject and neglect pile. Christ did not do that, and He will not accept that behavior from His followers.
Just remember, if it were not for the grace of God any one of us could be leprous, literally or figuratively. We are not so “good” that we couldn’t stoop to the same depths as we believe others have declined.
Will you follow Christ’s example and touch the leper?
The Power of a Touch
What’s in a touch? Have you ever thought about it? There is so much to be given and received from a simple touch.
In the case of the leper, that touch from Jesus was loaded! In that touch was a message of love, care, concern, and compassion. The heart of the Lord reached out and touched the heart of that leprous man. Jesus’s initial touch wasn’t even a physical one. In this entire interaction with the leprous man is a message to all who will follow Jesus Christ. You have to love people!
Those ancient Israelites knew the instructions of God. You know the Pharisees, those strict monitors of the law, knew the instructions of God. Yet, the Pharisees had nothing to say regarding the treatment of the leper, and neither did they show any care or concern for him themselves. As a matter of fact, the Bible never states a Pharisee ever calling anyone out on not loving their neighbor in any circumstance, especially in regards to lepers.
Jesus comes along and demonstrates to everyone what is expected of His people. Imagine that leper, the mere fact that one has looked upon and treated him with kindness must have both shocked him and warmed his heart.
In Jesus’ touch was also healing. Think about something. This leper, as stated earlier, had been enduring some serious negative treatment. He is sick, does not understand why this has happened to him, and he is well aware of how unwanted he is. Imagine how this leper felt after so long enduring this state of existence. Imagine the condition of his heart, the emotional wounds, the inferiority etc…
Jesus’s touch was a healing balm to this man. I imagine the Lord’s kindness and physical touch began healing the inside while His Words completed the process.
Disciples of Jesus Christ?
When Jesus walked this earth, He encountered enumerable individuals with various ills. People who were the outcasts of society, people whom the church folks of the day did not have time for. What was there about Jesus that drew towards himself the sinners and the poor, sick, lame, and diseased? The love he had for them.
I believe the love of God radiated from Christ, that unmatched compassion He had for humanity. People did not feel shunned by him, not good enough and unwanted in His presence. Jesus’ heart was so evident that even lepers, accustomed to hatred and rejection, were not afraid to come to Him.
As the master so the disciples, right? You sure ‘bout that?
The disciples went about doing the same as Jesus, including healing those diseased with leprosy (Matthew 10:8). Would you? Would I?
Are people welcomed in your presence? Do they feel comfortable to ask for help? Or, even though you may behave pleasantly, are they not able to relax in your presence because they can feel how unwanted and insignificant they are to you? Do you size people up every chance you get? Does love, the true love of Jesus emanate or something else?
What habits are you developing as you walk this journey? Are you training yourself to love in word, thought and deed? Are you carefully following the example of The Savior? Are you just living with no thought regarding your words, thoughts, or actions?
This is training ground. The time to examine our hearts is now. Your bank account is not going to heal the sick. Your car cannot cleanse the leper ,and fine clothing won’t rescue anyone out of a lost and dying world.
Will you have compassion for those who are weary and depressed? Does your heart weep for those bound by strongholds they cannot break free of? Do you care about the gazillions who are pouring into hell every day? Do you love those who are less fortunate than you? Do you realize that you and I are a part of the less fortunate lot?
Jesus left the opulence of heaven, of which earth’s trinkets cannot compare! He left it all to come here because he loved such dreadful, helpless creatures as you and I. Where would we be without Him?
Will you touch the leper?
Until next time,