The ten lepers

Jesus passed between the regions of Samaria and Galilee while he was traveling to Jerusalem. Ten men with leprosy approached him when he entered a village. They stood some distance away from him and called out to him, saying “Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us!”

Jesus noticed them and said “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were healed on their way.

One of them returned to Jesus when he noticed that he had been healed and gave glory to God with a loud voice. He threw himself facedown at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus said “Weren’t ten people healed? Where are the rest? Has only this foreigner returned to give glory to God?” Jesus said “Rise, and be on your way. Your faith has healed you.”

LK 17:11-19

Bigotry by any other color.

Bigotry is “a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own” according to the Dictionary webpage.

Nothing is driving me up the wall more than seeing/hearing African Americans be bigoted about gay people getting married, and use the Bible to condone it. I don’t like seeing anybody do it, but it is especially vexing when it is from members of the African American community. Perhaps they forget that in the United States, in this very century, African Americans could not marry white people, and that the very same Bible was used to support that bigotry.

Once I was at a Japanese restaurant enjoying a hibachi dinner. There were 8 other people at the table, all strangers to me. There was a black man there who snapped his fingers at the Japanese waiter and called him “Boy”. He turned and said to me with a big smile “It feels good to call someone boy.” I was repulsed by how much he enjoyed that, and that he felt that it was something I would agree with. What is bad for one is bad for all. If it is not OK to call a black man “Boy” it is not OK to call anybody that.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not anything Jesus ever said. It is the exact opposite of Jesus’ message. I am pro-gay rights BECAUSE I follow Jesus. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He said a lot about not judging others. Saying other’s people ways of life and living is sinful is judging them. It is bigotry.

What was the sin of Sodom? The prophet Ezekiel has the answer.

Ezekiel 16:49
49 Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy.

Their sin was that they didn’t support the poor and needy. They had plenty and didn’t share it. This is why God destroyed them. Not because they wanted to have sex with the angels.

Jesus tells us how we are to serve others in these verses from Matthew.

Matthew 25:31-40
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger
and you took Me in;
36 I was naked
and you clothed Me;
I was sick
and you took care of Me;
I was in prison
and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Jesus is referring to the words of the prophet Isaiah when he tells this parable. Here is the original – please pay special attention to verses 6-7.

Isaiah 58:5-12
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.

Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take care of sick people. Visit those in prison. Fight against injustice. House the homeless.

These are the jobs of Christians. Nothing else. To serve God by serving our neighbors.

Mother Teresa took care of everyone who came to her, regardless of their beliefs. They could be suffering from leprosy, malnourished from starvation, abandoned by their families because they were too poor to afford another child, or dying of AIDS, it made no difference to her. She said that she saw every single person in front of her as being Jesus himself, and served them accordingly.

It didn’t matter that they weren’t Christian. She was.

What are we to do as followers of Jesus? Start with the primary commandments –

Luke 10:25-28
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love. Don’t judge. Don’t call them sinners. Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Don’t “love the sinner but hate the sin” – because that is not a Jesus concept at all. He never said anything like that. He said to love people.

The story gets more interesting though. The person who is asking Jesus continues, because he wants to “justify” himself – in short, he wants to justify being less than neighborly to people he doesn’t like.

Let us read the rest of that section to find out the answer – who is your neighbor?

Luke 10:29-37
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day[l] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

This story is significant because of the players. The man who was robbed and left for dead was Jewish. The two people who ignored him were upper-class Jews – a priest and a Levite. They were responsible for the maintenance of the Temple and the sacrifices there. The man who helped him was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were enemies of the first class. They’d had a feud going on for generations by this point. There was no way that a Samaritan would have helped a Jew, or vice versa. But this man helped someone who his culture said he should hate. He helped him because it was the right thing to do.

How are we to draw people to the love of Jesus if we are calling them sinners? How are we to serve people like Jesus did if we are separating and excluding them? Jesus embraced lepers and made them whole by doing so. Jesus included the excluded. Jesus made us all equal.

I’m not saying for you to become gay. Straight people can’t turn gay any more than gay people can turn straight. But what I am saying is stop denying others their civil rights. Stop turning them away from your churches. Start showing love by being kind. We have enough hate in the world. Let us not join them.

Let them know we are Christians by our love.

(All Bible verses are HCSB)

If you are willing…

A man with a serious skin disease all over his body approached Jesus. On his knees he begged him, saying “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper saying “I am willing. Be healed.” Immediately the disease left him.

Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone and sent him to go to the priest and take the offering required by Moses’ law as a testimony for his healing. Instead, he told everyone that Jesus healed him, which meant that large crowds would show up wherever Jesus was. He could no longer publically enter a town. Because of that, he spent a lot of time praying in deserted places.

MT 8:1-4, MK 1:40-45, LK 5:12-16 (HCSB, LB)


I’ve heard a lot of testimonies about people who have become Christian. They say that their lives have become easier. They gave their lives over to God and it all got easier.

I don’t know what they are talking about. I think it gets harder.

In my opinion, when you become a Christian, you become awake. You are aware of the awesome responsibility that you have to be a force for good in the world. You switch from being passive to active.

Yes, there is a sense of your “Higher Power” as they say in AA. You aren’t in charge (and you never were), and you know that God is in charge. You can relax in that sense. And there is the sense that once you are saved, you are then set for when you die. You know where you will go.

But what about in between now and then? Do you just get to sit back and be smugly happy that you’ve got “it” and others don’t? Is being Christian some ugly game of musical chairs, where the loser gets condemned to an eternity in Hell? That doesn’t sound very nice. It also doesn’t sound very Christian. Not really. Not in the true sense of the word.

It does sound like the modern brand of Christian, unfortunately. There are plenty of folks who wear that name like a shield against the rest of the world. They use it like a “get out of jail free” card. They feel like it means they are set – they will live forever. But they then are arrogant about it. They lord The Lord over people. But life isn’t a game of Monopoly. It really isn’t about getting and buying more stuff and about screwing over other people on the way.

When I became Christian I didn’t get a full grasp of what it meant, and I suspect that I still don’t know the full depth of what my responsibilities are. I certainly don’t feel like I do it right all the time. I feel like it is a process, and instead of “Being” Christian, it is more like I’m “Becoming” Christian. It feels like every year I grow deeper into my faith and closer to understanding what the Bible means. I still find the idea of Jesus as “The WORD made flesh” really interesting and I think I have no real clue what that means. I think I have a glimmer of a hope of understanding it.

I feel like the most important thing about being a Christian is that it isn’t a free pass to Heaven. It is marching orders to the front lines of Hell. We are called to be Christ’s Body in this world. Literally. We are His arms and His legs. When folks say “How could God let that happen”, the real answer is “How can we, agents of God, let that happen?” We are to be a force for good. We are to bring forth God’s love. We are to let God work through us.

Jesus didn’t hang out in the swank part of town. He didn’t buy a huge mansion and wall himself off from the world. He was a man of the people. He walked out among average, everyday people who were lost and hungry and sick. He got right in the middle of the tangled knots of life and untangled them. He was a hands-on kind of guy.

He touched lepers. Nobody did that. Lepers were “unclean” in all the ways possible. They had an infectious skin disease that meant they had to live outside of the camp with other lepers. They didn’t get to see their families. They didn’t get to hang out with their friends. It was a lonely existence. They had to wear bells to announce they were lepers to anyone who might come near. If you touched a leper, then you too were considered “unclean.”

But Jesus didn’t care about that. He not only associated with lepers, He touched them, and He didn’t catch leprosy. He healed them.

It makes me wonder, how much of their healing was just being acknowledged by another person? How much of the healing was just being noticed AS a person? Every single person Jesus healed was precious to Him. He violated so many rules that were in place at that time – touching lepers, dead people, women who had menstrual problems. Any one of these conditions would render a person unclean in those days. None of these rules stopped him.

Jesus not only showed us what to do, he empowered us to do it. He showed us that we are to heal others. He gave power to heal to His disciples and through the power of apostolic succession we have that power too. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have it. Be assured – if you are Christian, you have that power.

So what is our modern day leprosy? What are the conditions that people find themselves in that make them excluded from society? What conditions make people pariahs? What conditions create invisible social walls that make people “unclean” in our society’s eyes? Thus – what places are we called to break down those walls and build bridges?

How about mental illness? How about being a single mother? How about AIDS? How about being gay? There are others, but this is a good start.

If you are a Christian, you have the power to heal. You have within you the means to bring forth God’s mercy and healing. All you have to do is let it happen. You don’t need special training. Just pray, and Jesus will show you how. It is that easy, and that hard. It is terrifying at first. It goes against all of our social rules. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t get involved. Don’t make a scene. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. The rules of society no longer apply. Jesus broke rules all the time. We are called to do the same. This often means getting out of your comfort zone. This often means taking a risk. It isn’t easy, but it is essential.

Now, it isn’t about passing judgment, and it certainly isn’t about passing laws against people. These actions create separation. We are called to bring together all the lost sheep. We are to show love and kindness and mercy to everyone. We are not to tell others that what they are doing is wrong in our opinion. We are to love them. By loving them, we are healing them. We are healing the rifts that divide people into “us” and “them”.

How do you bring forth healing? One way is to treat every person as if they are Jesus in disguise. This is how Mother Theresa acted. She felt that it was her honor to wash Jesus’ wounds when she washed a leper. She held Jesus in her arms when a frail elderly person died. You don’t have to work at a non-profit to do this. You can do this in your everyday job. Treat each person fairly and kindly. Don’t gossip. Be patient. Show actual interest in each person. Give each person your full attention and your time. When you start doing this you may find it is a little overwhelming and exhausting. Keep it up. It gets easier. It is just like exercise – you get stronger the more you do it.

We are given two commandments – love God, and similarly, love your neighbor as yourself. Every person is a child of God. Every person has within her or him a spark of the light of God. So, treat every person with kindness and respect and love. In Matthew 22:37 we hear these words from Jesus – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We, as Christians, are called to show the same focus and intensity to “the least of these”, to the “unclean”, to everyone.