“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Leprosy, a term that has historically covered a multitude of skin disorders and diseases, is not particularly contagious. You cannot catch it by shaking hands with someone who has it. It’s not passed through hugging, holding hands, giving high-fives, or helping someone up who has fallen down. Leprosy, as ugly and painful as it can be if left untreated, is not much of a threat to people in proximity to one who has the condition.
But still . . . better safe than sorry, right?
Having leprosy would be bad enough. Add to it a community of people, many of whom used to be your friends, who now steer clear of your leprosy, which in turn means they steer clear of you. What a horrible scenario. No more human contact. No more conversations. No more community. Alone.
It’s almost unimaginable . . . or is it?
Oh the countless people who have felt like they have leprosy. Newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, his friends no longer visit because they simply “wouldn’t know what to say”. A wife who has lost her husband hasn’t seen several of her friends in some time because they’re “afraid they may say something that brings more pain”. By no fault of their own, these people know what it’s like to have leprosy. They know what it’s like to have a community (maybe even a church) drop them. They know what it’s like to feel alone.
This is pain piled atop pain and it’s just plain wrong. Better is a community strong enough to bear one another’s burdens. In ourselves, not one of us has such strength. Yet in the power of Jesus Christ, we can certainly reach out for those suffering from leprosy in our midst.
When Jesus encountered people with leprosy, He gave them something they hadn’t had for a long time – a loving embrace and a loving word! When Jesus encountered people marginalized for any reason, He compassionately came to their aid.
It’s hard to face our friends who are suffering from tragic and traumatic news like cancer or death. Hard as it is, it is most certainly better than abandoning them at the very moment they need us the most. Strengthened in Christ and armored by God Himself, you have the power to love those who are in need. We need each other.
“Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.”
Salvation Unto Us Has Come (LSB, 555)