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Luke 5: 12-14 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

In times past, leprosy was a dreaded and fearsome disease. It caused fingers and toes to fall off and other physical deformities. Lepers would be banned from society and be quarantined in leper colonies. It was thought to be highly contagious and simply touching a leper could transmit the disease.

But now we understand leprosy (Hansen's disease) and how to treat it. It is caused by a bacillus called Mycobacterium leprae. The bacteria doesn't actually attack muscle cells or bone cells. It attacks nerve cells. Leprosy simply causes a person to lose sensations. The problem is that a leper can feel no pain. This loss of feeling of pain is what causes the deformities. Normally, when a person has pain, it's a signal that something is wrong: my hand is being burned by the stove, a nail is sticking into my foot, a piece of glass is in my eye. But a leper would not be able to feel that his hand is being burned or his foot is being infected or his eye is being damaged. Thus over time, his body would be severely deformed.

Today, we rarely see leprosy in the US. But there is a far worse disease that has infected the church - spiritual leprosy. The symptoms are broken relationships, broken churches, bitter and hurting people, and families falling apart. The cause of all this is lack of feeling of pain. When we cannot identify with the sufferings of others, we are the modern day lepers.

Matthew 25:41-46 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

We are to identify with others in their suffering. Even Jesus Himself identifies with people who are hurting. We are called to do no less.

Lord, heal us of our spiritual leprosy. We confess that we are selfish and cannot identify with those that are hurting. We would rather be numb than identify with those who are in need. We would rather look after our own self-interests rather then the interests of others. Lord, touch us and make us clean.

Posted: 2002-05-31 10:57:19

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