I played the part of a leper today.
My daughter, Delaney, is quite ill. Her illness is not hidden from the world. She coughs. She cries. She wheezes. She sneezes. She has the classic kid snot-face with swollen eyes and a smoker’s cough. She sick.
And today we were shunned like lepers.
In the doctor’s office parents chose to stand in a corner rather than sit within 20 feet of us. Those who were seated nearby got up and moved across the room. While picking up her scrip from the pharmacy the associate looked at us with pity and despair. Now, I don’t blame people for their reaction, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt to see my daughter avoided and shunned.
Being a leper hurts.
In the doctor’s office as each person moved away from her, I made sure I moved closer to her. With each look of pity, I countered with a touch or a kiss on her cheek. To the world she might seem like a leper, but to her father she was still as perfect as she was on the day she was born. And no amount of snot or any crude cough can ever change that.
It’s like that with God.
One of the reasons Jesus is so confrontational with the leaders of his day, is he missed the class on who to shun and who not to. He does not cater to the rich, healthy and wealthy. Rather, he spends the bulk of his time with the sick, despairing, demonized, and ill. He sups with whores and tax collectors. He touches lepers. He walks right up to the dead. He confronts those with demons.
He finds those who’ve been cast aside – those who’ve been avoided – those who’ve been abandoned – and restores them to community, brings them back to wholeness, and assures them that they are not alone.
In general, I believe it is our instinct to avoid the sick and despairing. (It’s probably some innate survival skill that we still rely upon to keep humanity going.) But when you’re on the other side – when you’re the one who is shunned, avoided, outcast and alone – it still hurts. It can be very sad.
Thanks be to God that our Lord not only sees those the world casts aside, but makes an intentional effort to approach, touch and minister to them in their time of need. Like a loving Father God draws near to his children who need him most.
God is calling his church – what St. Paul calls the Body of Christ – to carry on the ministry of care and contact to the lepers of today. We are called to reach out to the sick. We are called to open our arms to the grieving and despairing. We are called to see, approach and embrace all those who feel isolated, abandoned and alone.
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing.”
Willing and In the Way,