Full disclosure here – I am utterly sick of Christianity – modern, American Christianity that is. I love Jesus. I really am not a fan of Christianity. As Rob Bell says, Jesus wants to save Christians too. I do, however, continue to pursue it as my model of religion based on our thousands of years of tradition and also my understanding of salvation for ALL of creation because of Jesus. All of the other stuff can be superfluous and get in the way.
With that being said, I am saddened by the lepers we Christians (again I still claim Christianity) seem to create. I was having a conversation with a friend I have known for nearly all 28 years of my life about church. We grew up going to church together and now she and her family are looking for a place to be in community with others. They have visited several places and not been spoken to one time. She went alone one Sunday while her husband was at work and left crying because some folks asked her to move out of their seat. She told me she felt like a leper. This is not a new conversation in modern, American Christianity, but it is still prevalent.
We Christians are good at making people feel like lepers. We castigate, turn our noses up, and betray each other constantly. When someone falls down, we are typically the first to kick them. We slander, destroy, gossip and label one another as if it were part of the ten commandments. We make lepers of one another. We strip the humanity out of humans. It is almost built into our culture as if it is the very fabric of who we are. Destroy someone else so others won’t look at us. I am more guilty of this behavior than anyone.
First century world was harsh on folks with leprosy. They were pushed out of society and looked at as less than human. The painful reality for lepers in this time period was cruel. No one would touch, talk, or even look at lepers. Many believed that sin was the cause of leprosy. You screwed up therefore God has afflicted you. What a disturbing picture of God…
Jesus had a different philosophy with lepers. I’m sure you know the story in Matthew 8 – Jesus not only heals but TOUCHES a leper. Shocking gasp from the stunned crowd. How could Jesus touch something so disgusting, so putrid? This is the same attitude we have today. We turn our noses up at “sinners”. We look at others who are different than us as foreign aliens in need of cleansing. We push them aside as if they never existed. We destroy them with our stares and with our words. We look at new people as clique destroyers. We view same-sex couples as grotesque creatures. We hear of people struggling with addiction and silently thank God that we are “not like those sinners.” Lepers. Lepers. Lepers.
The reality of first century lepers is that they had no choice at all. They simply were who they were and Jesus was not afraid of that. He didn’t turn his nose up. He didn’t slander. He didn’t gossip and he certainly didn’t destroy. He healed. Of course there was the physical healing that took place, but much more than that there was the emotional healing that came from no longer being viewed as disgusting.
We can heal modern day leprosy in our culture. We can stop the slander. We can stop the gossip. We can stop the gasping and the back turning. We can look at people as people – whether we agree with them or not. Jesus touched the untouchables. We are all untouchables.
And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.