The Law Regarding Leprosy

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Leprosy, what is today known as Hansen’s disease, has plagued humanity for at least 4000 years. The people of Moses’ time didn’t understand germs, but they did understand contagion. To avoid the spread of this horrific disease, a primitive form of isolation was devised. Afflicted people, when first suspecting the infection, were required to remove themselves from the rest of the population. They were to approach no-one and had to announce their “uncleanliness” to all who might venture too close. Even in modern times, persons with leprosy may be banished to “leper colonies” to live out their lives at a safe distance from healthy populations. As appalling and heartless as we might see it today, during biblical times, it seemed to be the best solution to protect the general population.

Generations later, we now know it is both curable and not highly contagious; we don’t have leper colonies in the
The United States. Thankfully, our government no longer supports legal discrimination against females and certain minorities or ethnic groups. That isn’t to say it doesn’t exist nor is it always discouraged. That’s because individuals still harbor resentment, and even fear those they see as unclean. There are those among us who fear contact with foreigners, with gays, and with the mentally ill.

I would like to think that as a Christian, I don’t see any groups as unfit for contact with respectable people, but perhaps I am unwilling to look beyond the walls I have built up, presumably for my safety. So who are the “lepers” of my world?

The first group that comes to mind are those in political opposition to my beliefs. I neither agree with nor
understand how anyone can support that “other side.” Because I want all around me to be part of my “safe space” and don’t want to hear what others say, I avoid opportunities for confrontation — and debate.

Maybe it’s my own arrogance saying “my way is the right way” or, then again, it may be because I lack confidence in my own decisions, but either way, I don’t want to deal with people who don’t make critical decisions the way I do. Those who have chosen a radically different lifestyle or a different belief system than me are at risk of being the lepers in my life. Go away — you are unclean, and I don’t want you to contaminate me or my beliefs. I don’t want you to spread your faulty thinking to my family. Stay on your side of the wall I have built to isolate you “lepers” from my healthy society. If I can’t see you, you and your problems don’t exist.

I am a Christian; yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus is quietly telling me to look over the wall, see those I have deemed unclean, open the gate, and share life together.