45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46 ESV)
Imagine one day you find an unusual white patch on your skin. It’s quite small and you never noticed it before. You figure it’s just dry and will probably heal in a few days. But after one week, you notice that little patch has gotten bigger and is now swollen. You feel some tenderness when you press on it which prompts you to go see the doctor.
He examines your skin carefully and the furrow of his brow is telling you that it’s something serious. He washes his hands and distances himself from you to reveal the diagnosis.
“I’m sorry, Sir. You have leprosy.”
Now you are shocked! You’ve seen lepers before and were careful to stay away from them. You even made sure there was enough distance between you and them so you don’t even breathe the same air. The sight of their skin was repulsive because the disease transformed them into something that appeared less than human. As these thoughts continue to race through your mind, the doctor’s voice grabs your attention again with audible clarity.
“Sir, you need to take time off work. In fact, you can’t be there because you might expose your co-workers. To protect your family, you will need to move out of the house and find a place just for yourself.”
“The law says that you have to wear torn clothes so people can see your skin; you also have to wear a mask. They need to properly identify you as a public health danger. When walking in public, you have to verbally announce your infection by yelling ‘Unclean! Unclean!’”
“Yes, I am afraid you have to do all these things, because the law says so.”
Now you are asking yourself, “What am I to do? Where will I go?” Panic and grief accompanies you out of the medical office as you realize that your entire life has been ripped away.
One year later, you find yourself still stricken with leprosy. You wake up stiff from lying on a cold, iron bench. A not-so-nearby crowd of commuters are chattering away while waiting for the first bus to arrive. The traffic on the street increases and the noise levels chaotically arpeggiate into a rush hour clatter.
It’s been a while since anyone has spoken to you or offered to shake your hand. The café across the street looks inviting because you see people sitting together enjoying each other’s company while sipping on piping hot coffee. The joyful scenery depresses you and your stomach pain suddenly reminds you that you have not eaten anything in 5 days.
You reach inside your coat pocket for the bottled rum, unscrew the cap, and take one big gulp until you feel the warm sensation hit the bottom of your belly. The hunger pain fades and so does your head with a weight of drowsiness. You lie back down on that bench, pull the blanket over your face and beg, “God, please let this just be a bad dream! I want to be healed and back home with my family.” You wake up the next day to only find out that your nightmare continues.