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Sin and Leprosy

"The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." - Abigail Van Buren.

Many people are leaving the churches because of the lack of love and the failure for churches to confront sin in an appropriate manner. Some churches treat sin as if it were leprosy.

To the Jews, leprosy was especially bad because: it was repulsive to all who saw the person, it was incurable by human means, it was isolating (lepers were confined outside the city limits), and it would cause you to become unclean ceremonially if you touched a leper (even if you didn’t catch the disease).

In the Bible, leprosy was the outward, physical manifestation of the spiritual problem of sin. That is why when a leper was healed, it was called “cleansing” instead of “healing”.

Despite the Jews stance on leprosy, Jesus boldly offered cleansing to the lepers, and even got His hands dirty by physically touching them:

Matthew 8:3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Many church leaders and Christians are not interested in cleansing the sinful, but rather in condemning them. Just as leprosy was repulsive to the Jews, sin is repulsive to these churches.

Many churches will even “shun” a congregant who has sinned (or who the congregation has decided has “sinned”), which is the cultural equivalent of isolating the leper to the outskirts of the city.

These churches need to realize that their ineffective method of dealing with sin is creating a culture in their congregation that promotes its members and church staff alike to wear a “mask of perfection”. In church on Sunday, the church is dressed to impress and raising their hands to the worship music, but many are going home and may be struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence, gambling, addiction, adultery, and fornication. Instead of the church being a home for its congregants to receive understanding (surely we can “understand” someone’s sin, as we are all sinners), loving kindness, and godly counsel, many members fear getting “caught” in these sins, knowing the church’s response will be to condemn and punish, rather than love and restore. This leads to a general fear among the congregations that not only will their sins will be discovered, but that the church itself will turn against them. Instead of the church being a place that they can go to get cleansing, the church becomes phony and ineffective, more akin to the Pharisees than of Christ.

This ought not be so, in fact, the scriptures instruct us this way:

Matthew 10:8 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Luke 17:3-4 If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Romans 3:9-19 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

Let us not forget:

Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

If we are reminded by the Apostle Paul that God’s will for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, is to be invited into the Kingdom of Heaven, then that same desire must be within us for others. There is no place for condemnation or unreasonable judgment in the body of Christ.

Churches and believers alike must change our mind about the subject of sin and be ready and willing to engage the sinner just as Jesus did.

Mark 2: 15- 17 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

We must be willing to share with them the hope given to us through the glorious gospel, and not be tempted to set ourselves apart as “more holy” or “more righteous”. In fact, scripture tells us otherwise:

Romans 3:10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one."

No one receives the gospel because they are holy or righteous.

When you truly receive the gospel it is because you are a desperate, broken sinner who knows that apart from God there is no hope. This is the reason why Jesus engaged sinners but not Pharisees. The Pharisees were convinced they were righteous and because of their own pride, they could not accept the bloody sacrifice of our humble Messiah, who came as man and walked the earth to identify with us in our sinful, fallen, desperate state.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.