Man Healed of Leprosy, Luke 17: 11-19
My first thoughts were that it should have been easy to keep the disease hidden because everyone’s bodies were covered with layers of clothes. The only parts of the body that were ever seen were the face, hands and feet. Guess what parts of the body leprosy affects? You got it — disfiguring skin lesions and deformities with the eyes, nose, ears, hands, and feet. Yuck.
Apparently, leprosy is caused by a bacterial infection which is spread by cough or contact with nasal fluid. It was feared as a highly contagious and occurred more commonly among those living in poverty. On top of the physical issues, leprosy has always carried a strong social stigma, the feeling that the person is shameful and should not accepted in society. And we aren’t just talking about 2,000 years ago. An example was our own 50th state. In Hawaii, sugar planters supported legislation to quarantine persons with leprosy in the belief that this would prevent its transmission.
Anyone remember the TV show, Marcus Welby, M.D.? It was a medical drama from the 1970s starring Robert Young as a family practitioner with a kind bedside manner. I remember one episode where a woman diagnosed in the initial stages of leprosy. Even though the disease was completely and effectively treated, her fiancé didn’t want to marry her because of what the bible says about the disease. Talk about a stigma that never dies.
Where have we held on to disapproval or discontent with people or groups just because they have behaviors / characteristics that make it easy to distinguish them from others in society? Maybe those with mental or emotional challenges? Those that eat way too much or those that refuse to eat anything? Those with alcohol or drug addictions (which are diseases not behaviors)? Where is God calling us to reach and embrace those folks even if it makes our lives more difficult? We have the power to heal when we embrace those that have been shunned by others. Let us use that healing power today and always.