By Tonya Allen
One evening I was reading Matthew 8 and I started wondering how the unnamed leper must have felt. Can you imagine living your life without anyone ever wanting to touch you or be around you? Just your mere appearance sends people running and crying with horror. Here we have a man who had been banished by his entire community and family. People would not touch a leper, matter of fact; they use to throw stones at them when they got to close. To touch a leper was unthinkable. He probably had open sores and dirty bandages. You have to remember that leprosy was the most dreaded disease, and it is symbolic for the ultimate outcast. This condition rendered the body to have a mass of ulcers and decay. Fingers would curl and gnarl. Blotches of skin would discolor and stink. Certain types of leprosy would numb nerve endings, leading to a loss of fingers, toes, even a whole foot or hand.
Leprosy was death by inches. The social consequences were as severe as the physical. Considered contagious, the leper was quarantined, banished to a leper colony. This man was infected by a condition he did not seek, rejected by those he knew, avoided by people he did not know; condemned to a future he could not bear. He despairingly realized that his life would never be the same.
Why am I telling this sad story? We are all lepers in one way or another. We have all experienced being cast out at work, school, even in our own homes. Yes, even in our own family. How can you be a leper in your own family? Within our families we can have dry spells and rough times. These are times when a loved one can feel like an outcast or unloved. Sometimes we are treating our own family member like a leper. When we are hurt, or frustrated we do not let them in. We often draw up within ourselves and leave them standing on the other side of the door struggling to get in. Like the leper, the loved one often finds himself put out of the village.
Only God knows how many times we have put our own spouse, parent, or sibling in exile. Within your own home, your child or spouse is living a quiet, lonely life infected by their fear of rejection and their memories of the last time they tried to enter your village. Sometimes they choose not to be touched at all rather than risk being hurt again. Imagine living in a house filled with people and still feel lonely? We all have sat in a room filled to capacity with people and still felt alone.
When our loved ones go and search for love we want them to ALWAYS come to us first. They should never have to go elsewhere looking for love. They should always find love waiting for them at home. Not only did the leper find love, he found compassion. I believe that the first time he saw Jesus he was a changed man. He knew in just one look that Jesus cared for him. Jesus loved him and he knew that Jesus hated that disease more than he did. He didn’t know it than but Jesus would do three things for him: (1) Touch Him; (2) Heal Him; and (3) Enable him to be included in society again. Just one look at Jesus must have turned all of his rage into trust, and his anger into hope.
God has chosen you and made his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. When the world is throwing stones at us, we should be able to come home to our family members and receive a priceless gift, a loving touch.
Tonya can be reached at [email protected]. Tonya and her husband Robert were Married Couples Ministry leaders for 16 years at Freewill Missionary Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama.
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