Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lepers

I am humbled today.

One of the most sensitive and sometimes difficult facets of the healthcare profession is dealing with those patients who have very contagious diseases, some of which have a stigma associated or general public attitude toward them. Aside from the contagion, along with these diseases might come ulcerations, foul odors, decay, deformities--all manners of unpleasantness. It is human nature to recoil away from these things, and yet my calling in life asks me to instead reach toward them, with a smile on my face and healing in my hands. I must confess--sometimes this is not the easiest thing to do.

What does the Bible say on this issue?

In Mark 1:40-42, the following is recounted: "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If you are willing, You can make me clean."
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed."

A couple of things to note here: first of all, this has many implications, at least that is what I think. There is the surface one, which I am looking to today--of Jesus' compassion, his lack of hesitation to reach out and touch this man whose disease was painfully evident to all those around him. A second implication would be the parallel of this man's leprosy to our sin and uncleanness before God. That is a whole 'nother topic that should probably be explored by someone more qualified than myself. But I just have to reflect on this whole healing business. In case you are not familiar with leprosy, William Barclay describes it as such: "The whole appearance of the face is changed, till the man loses his human appearance and looks, as the ancients said, "like a lion or a satyr." The nodules grow larger and larger. They ulcerate. Become staring. The voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and the feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of the disease is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death. The sufferer becomes utterly repulsive - both to himself and to others."

There was a stigma associated with leprosy. Lepers were declared "unclean" by the religious authorities of the day and were forbidden to come into the temple. They were ostracized. Social outcasts, separated from their families and friends, and forced to live in communities of only other people with their disease or one like it.

Can you imagine?

And Jesus, in his love and compasson, didn't hesitate a second to reach out and touch this man. This man with a contagious, incurable disease. A disease that created unpleasant smells, distasteful sights. A man whom no one else in the community would get near, let alone touch, for fear of catching it.

Now--if I truly believe what I say I do--then I know that this man's physical disease pales in comparison to my spiritual one. God sees our pitiful spiritual state just as we view the physical one of this leper. And He not only reaches down to touch me, but sacrificed his most precious, precious One, so that I could be clean.

Surely I can reach out and touch another, with warmth and surety, using the skills I have for healing--and with a lack of hesitation--knowing that the same has been done for me, and is done for me, every day of this life on earth.

Something to think about.

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