Thursday, February 4, 2010

Unclean, Unclean!

As my journey through the Bible continues I have reached the book of Leviticus. I knew it was coming from the time I read through it last year. If you have not spent much time in the book of Leviticus I do not blame you. This is the book that covers the responsibilities of the priests. What do you do if someone sins unintentionally? Do you offer a goat, a ram, a bull or a grain offering? What does a woman do after she has a baby? Does she offer a pigeon, a goat or a lamb? Does the priest slaughter it and offer the whole thing as a burnt offering or does he burn part and offer part as a wave offering? If you are curious just read the book, it covers all of this. What was interesting to me was both chapters 13 and 14 deal with skin diseases. These are lengthy chapters that describe the various diseases in detail. Look at a couple of passages (preferably not while you are eating):

Leviticus 13: 3-4 - 3 The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. 4 If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days.

Leviticus 13: 24-26 - 24 "When someone has a burn on his skin and a reddish-white or white spot appears in the raw flesh of the burn, 25 the priest is to examine the spot, and if the hair in it has turned white, and it appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious disease that has broken out in the burn. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infectious skin disease. 26 But if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in the spot and if it is not more than skin deep and has faded, then the priest is to put him in isolation for seven days.

How would you like that job?!

There is one other verse that struck me as I read through this chapter:

Leviticus 13: 45-46- 45 "The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' 46 As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

Imagine having to live like this. I wondered how I would react if my family was walking down the street and we saw a haggardly old person coming our way yelling "Unclean, Unclean!" Would I try to whisper under my breath "Kids, don't stare and for heavens sake don't point or speak!" How quickly could I get me and my family out of his way, how quickly could I find the hand sanitizer in the bottom of my wife's purse and apply it all over. How long would it take before I started feeling like I had something on me, "Is that an itch I feel?, Has that red bump always been there?!" Compare my thoughts and possible actions to Christ's:

Mark 1: 40-42 - 40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Who knows, this man with leprosy may have been yelling "Unclean, Unclean!" until he realized who it was coming down the road. Notice how different Christ's response was from mine! He reached out and touched him. He was not concerned for his well being, he was not concerned with what those around him might think. This man probably had not been touched by another human for years and Christ knew that. He reached out and showed compassion!

God's timing is amazing. As I am reading through some of this and am trying to process it I get a couple of e-mails from my friend Wick Jackson telling me about his opportunity to minister to the outcasts of Haiti. The forgotten ones in this shelter for the mentally and physically disabled. Listen to how Wick ministered:

There were eight children, all twisted to some degree or other, none could speak clearly but most could make eye contact. Some could sense touch and enjoyed it much; others did not seem to feel a thing. I was drawn quickest to a little girl with a beautiful smile and eyes that could not focus for longer than a few seconds. I touched her soft twisted hand and held it where it’s soft palm and fingers seemed to grow together. Her right eye tried to focus on our hands touching and she grinned huge as stringy water drooled from her mouth onto her wet shirt. I spoke to her and rubbed the back of her head. She seemed to relax as if to say, “That’s all I wanted, that’s all I ever really wanted.”

I think my buddy Wick gets it!

As we make our way through life, take time to minister to those around you. Take time to reach out to those in need. If you see someone who looks as thought they should be yelling "Unclean, Unclean!" take it as an opportunity to get closer to them and not farther away. Step out of your comfort zone, take a risk, see how God can move through your actions.

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