Church Lepers

Desperation shoved her through the doors of the drug rehab facility. Counselors and teachers there helped her excavate her brokenness. Slowly and methodically, they helped her sift through the pain that had ignited her addiction until she found Jesus waiting. Waiting for her. She found the acceptance she longed for and the love that would see her through difficult days. She had made the sacrifices and done the hard work of letting go. Now, she was ready to return to her parents’ home. 

Yet, when she came to me for prayer after our bible study, her eyes filled with tears. She had finished the rehab program and was about to go home, but she was scared. She didn’t want to slip back into her old ways. She could see the benefits of a new life in Jesus, but she didn’t know if she could hold onto that feeling of newness after leaving the safety and support of rehab.

As her tears dripped onto my shoulder, I asked her, “Do you have a church home? I understand the importance of having Christian friends who will love you through hard times and support you when you’re weak.” 

As she pulled away, I could see the angst in her eyes. Then … she shared words that continue to cause my heart to ache. She explained, “My parents are good people. We went to church every week, but I got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Before I realized what was happening, I had become a drug addict. It didn’t take long for my church to find out about my addiction. They judged me and my parents. Whenever I did try to go back, I could see their condemnation and finger-pointing. I heard their whispers.” I watched the young lady’s sadness turn into steely resolve as she declared, “I didn’t feel welcome there anymore, and I am NOT going back!”

*****

There once was a leper who wore desperation like an overcoat. His horrific disease had no cure. Worst of all, he wasn’t welcomed anywhere. He was shunned, cursed, despised, and rejected by the ones who were supposed to care for him. Some thought leprosy was a result of some great sin the person had committed. They insisted that lepers wear funeral clothes because they considered them to be “walking death”. If this hopeless man could have obtained drugs to ease his pain he surely would have taken handfuls of them.  

But then, the leper met Jesus face to face and everything changed. “When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’” (Luke 5:13, NLT) He needed healing for his body and cleansing for his soul.

Faith wins the heart of Jesus every time. Seeing the leper’s faith, His compassion compelled Him to reach out and touch the man, erasing all signs of the disease. “Then [Jesus] said, ‘Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (Luke 5:14, NLT)

We don’t know the rest of the story. However, I imagine there was some amazement and disbelief on the part of the priests. After all, there are no documented cases of anyone in their world ever being cured of leprosy. Did they have to go back to the scrolls to find the procedure for declaring this man clean? How could they declare him clean if he had been miraculously healed by someone they didn’t even know?

Perhaps, family and friends needed a time of proving. Was this a short-term healing? Would the disease return? Was it safe to be with him? What would others think if they were seen eating with this “sinner”? 

And what about the leper? Would he want to return and live among those who doubted his cleansing? Could he forgive their condemnation, finger-pointing, and whispers? Would he have to move to another place to be rid of all the hurt of condemnation?

I don’t know what happened to the girl I eventually prayed with, but I do hope she found a church family who offered her wise counsel, acceptance, love, and forgiveness. I pray she was patient with her family and friends who may have doubted her new-creation status. 

Why is it so easy to criticize things we don’t understand? May we all display the compassion and acceptance of Jesus. Love never excuses sin, but it does cover a multitude of them by overlooking unkindness and unselfishly seeking the best for others. We all need forgiveness. We all need healing. We all need Jesus.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.” Luke 4:18-19, TPT

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