According to that arbiter of all things intellectual (the internet), leprosy (or Hansen’s disease) is a disfiguring disease that has impacted humanity since Biblical times. It is now known to be not nearly as infectious as formerly thought, but there is still a stigma attached to its diagnosis.
Leviticus tells us that there were three main types if leprosy and it could infect human skin, clothing, or houses, with appropriate cleansing procedures in each case. In more modern times, lepers (or persons with leprosy) were often confined to colonies where their contagion could not be spread. However, it is now clear that leprosy is caused by a bacterium and can be treated with appropriate antibiotic drug regimes.
One of the most insidious symptoms of leprosy is the loss of feeling due to nerve damage. As the disease progresses unchecked, toes, fingers, and even noses and eyes lose sensation and do not even feel the pain of accidental injury. This leads to some horrendous disfigurements. However, it should be noted that even after being cured of leprosy, the victim’s nerve damage is not repaired and the loss of sensation is permanent.
So, what does this have to do with me and my friends in a world where leprosy has been essentially controlled and is no longer a factor in most of the world? It impacts every believer in Christ because much of the Church suffers from “spiritual leprosy”.
Just as a victim of Hansen’s disease slowly loses feeling in his extremities and his failing sense of touch no longer protects him from pain and damage, through the never-ending assault upon our Christian sensibilities by the anti-Christian society in which the church exists, we slowly become desensitized and habituated. Our conscience becomes seared to the point where we are no longer pained by the sin around us. The conscience firewall God gave each of us becomes breached by the virus of familiarity and we no longer feel the painful warning of destructive behaviours. Our society has whole-heartedly taken up the banner of “what-ev-er”, and holds that truth is relative and absolutes are non-existent. And the church follows along in lock-step, delayed only by a few years of numbing before espousing the same mind-sets as those outside the church. It has been said that the failure to feel guilt is the basic flaw in the psychopath.
We need to thank God for the capacity to feel both physical and spiritual pain. It provides us with the warning and the motivation to change—to be transformed into the image of our Savior Jesus Christ. In accepting His sacrifice for our sins, we take upon ourselves the responsibility—with God’s help—to diagnose and eradicate the sins that cause the spiritual pain in the first place, to bring us into vibrant spiritual health. We must be careful that the hardness of our hearts does not decline into an insensitivity of conscience that prevents us from seeking forgiveness and repentance.