I’m a leper. At least, if I had lived in the times of the Bible, I would have been shunned, forced to move outside the city in a colony with other people who had leprosy, survive on cast-offs and undergo ritual cleansing. People would fear making contact with me. I have vitiligo, the disease of Michael Jackson, the disease of Naaman, as some scholars would assert). Naaman, in 2 Kings 5:27 was said to be a “leper as white as snow.”
Syphilis, elephantiasis, vitiligo, even severe acne — all diseases, which, in Biblical times would have been labeled as leprosy because they were disfiguring skin diseases, and are obviously social life killers. Back in ancient times (and even in places today!) leprosy makes for outcasts, because there is a stigma of communcability. Doctors today associate Hansen’s Disease with leprosy, and all those other diseases get their proper designations. See what you can learn in church on 10/10/10?
I found it hilarious that Mia, half listening to the sermon, heard “lepers” and thought “leopards.” She spoke up, “Aha! He just said leopards! Did they have spots?” Well, yes they did, just like I do. Their skin disorders were seen as an outward sign of their innermost sin. Like Job, with his sores and boils, people assume that if you have some sort of disgusting disease that your soul is similarly diseased. Wouldn’t that make it easier? I wonder what I would look like on the outside if it truly mirrored what my soul looked like on the inside?
I can tell you, I wouldn’t look like Aishwarya Rai:
Nope, I’m pretty sure I would be an oozing glob of puss and dirt and would smell of putrid flesh and …. you get the idea, I just gagged on that. I’m a technical “leper” if we’re talking about 2 Kings, but we’re all lepers. Not to misquote the poetry of those 1970s Dr. Pepper commercials, but I’m a leper, he’s a leper, she’s a leper, we’re a leper. Wouldn’t you like to be a leper too?
In Luke, 17, Jesus heals 10 lepers. Jesus heals them from a distance, because they are too ashamed to approach him, too aware of the legal distance between them. As they go to appear before the priest, they are healed. Only one returns to thank Jesus. Today, I have vitiligo. My spots are visible, and the doctor tells me, they will only get larger, spread, and eventually make me, like Naaman, as white as snow (HA!). I thank the Lord, though, that my leprosy – the one of my heart and soul- has been healed. It would be wrong for that leper, so recently cleansed, to start attacking other lepers for their unclean state. I’m not going to attack other “leopards” for their spots, because the scars from mine are still on the mend. I’ve come back to thank him for making me, a leper, a vessel for his perfect spirit, as undeserving as I was to receive it.