“Spiritual Leprosy – A Deadly Silence to Those Suffering”

[Focal text: Luke 17:11-19] Have you ever experienced a season in your life journey where you felt like a “spiritual leper?” Allow me first to explain medically what a “leper” is. A modern day surgeon to lepers states that for a person who has contracted leprosy – known as a “leper” - the nerves stop functioning properly, no longer sending signals of pain to the brain. Lepers will then begin to lose their digits (i.e. fingers and toes) in accidents because they cannot feel pain when they may hurt themselves. Recall that in the Biblical days, lepers with this awful, crippling and disfiguring disease were labeled as “outcasts” because they were deemed as “spiritual unclean” and under the judgment of God. Lepers were thus cast out of their homes and towns, not allowed to work or even have physical contact with other human beings, not even their own family members. Stripped of every shred of decency which God gives to every person that He creates, lepers in Biblical times were left with no means to survive other than to beg for food and essentials; thereby pleading upon the mercy of others for handouts / daily provisions. Fast forward to today – an ever-increasing number of folks are experiencing great deals of pain and suffering in their life journey – many are facing unexpected job losses resulting in great economic hardships which are leaving many without the means to provide for one’s family (Lamentations 3:18-20); many are facing chronic illnesses and incurable medical problems which attack not only the body, but the very heart of one’s purpose and self-worth (Job 14:22); many are experiencing relationship problems as many families are divided and strife-filled (Matthew 12:45); and yet many other trials and tribulations are producing great levels of suffering in the lives of a growing number of families, both believers and unbelievers alike (Matthew 5:45). These trials have left many to feel like “spiritual lepers” by the community around them. Often isolated from former co-workers, family members and friends, they feel much like ‘outcasts’ left to wander alone in the barren desert of unending pain and intense suffering. As lepers were treated in the Biblical days, fewer folks seem willing to cross the human-made barriers to these modern-day “lepers” who need - more than anything - a genuine reminder that they are loved and have innate value/self-worth in the eyes of their Creator and to others as well. Sadly, many choose to pass them by, muck like the same way the lepers of the Biblical days were often passed by. Sadly, this sinful action is being repeated today by many within God’s church through the inaction to reach out and minister to those who are suffering in great pain through the various trials that have beset their lives. Many believers are so preoccupied with their own lives that they have become ‘desensitized’ (i.e. …deaf!) to the cries and moans of their neighbors all about them. Overflowing with “the best of intentions,” many simply fail to put the needs of others before their own needs. The Apostle Paul commanded us not to lose this order of priority when he shared in Philippians 2:1-5, “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” What attitude did Jesus demonstrate toward “lepers” in today’s focal text – compassion! Throughout the New Testament, Jesus was noted to be “filled (overflowing) with compassion” (Luke 7:13/15:20) which “moved Him” (Mark 1:41) to act – to become personally involved in the lives of others. James teaches us that unless our faith produces in us compassion-led actions to become involved in helping others around us in this life journey, then that faith we proclaim to hold is simply "dead and useless" (James 2:17, 26). And like the digits of many lepers as the disease progresses, the loss of the gift of touch – even the ability to sense / experience pain – leaves no other option than for death to consume that body member which was - at one time - filled with vibrant life. Spiritually, that is where many within God’s church are today, including a growing number of her leaders. They have allowed the enemy to stricken them with a spiritual leprosy that has left them unable to truly sense / experience the deep pain and suffering of others – holding on instead to a faith that has a nice shell (“having the appearance of good intentions”), but little to no true core (“genuine Christ-like heart of compassion”). So everyday, many are left to pass by an unlimited number of “divinus momentos” (divine moments) to minister through God’s compassion to the plethora of those suffering – many horribly stricken with an emotional, spiritual and/or physical type of leprosy. Perhaps for some believers, they have been hurt by compassionately reaching out to others, but received little to no gratitude for their effort. If that is you, be reassured that you are not alone. Jesus reached out to all ten lepers in today’s focal text and blessed them with a miraculous healing, yet only one leper returned to Him to express his gratitude. As followers of Christ, we are to demonstrate that same compassion, that same level of involvement which Christ did to those who the world has cast away, to those who may be suffering in silence, to those who may be unable to ask for help for themselves. So that we ourselves may not be guilty of passing by modern “lepers,” we must commit our heart and soul to listen to His Holy Spirit, to follow His divine leading and to act with genuine compassion to those who He brings across your lifepaths. The greatest blessing this CHRISTmas season is to simply be Jesus to others – allowing Him to love you first, and then for Him to love others through you … that’s what the true gift of CHRISTmas is all about! So go ahead, give away the true gift of Christmas as you remember the words of truth found in 1 John 3:18 - “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions (“…You show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it” (CEV))!” (NLT) …Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video is a duet by CCM artists Matthew West and Amy Grant and can be viewed by clicking on their Christmas song, "Give This CHRISTmas Away."

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