The definition of the word “leper” is one that we could assume is obvious:
a person suffering from leprosy.
- a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons.
“the story made her out to be a social leper”
We all, at some point in our lives, have heard or will hear the word in its metaphorical use; describing someone who is cast out. Even as the definition itself gives an example of, stating “the story made her out to be a social leper.” How many times have we heard of or even participated in something like this? How many times have we allowed a story or a rumor that someone has spoken, or that we have told ourselves, to affect the way that we treat someone? Even still, how many times have we done so and felt justified? The truth is that it is never justified to treat anyone with contempt, whether or not we feel it is and whether or not what we have heard or are telling ourselves is true.
Anytime that we cast out, push aside, leave out, or intentionally ignore someone because of an opinion we hold we make them into a leper. Christ said to love our enemies, yet most of the time we struggle to love our friends. If we cannot fully, unabashedly, love our friends then how can we possibly love our enemies? If we cannot love those who do us no wrong, how could we ever love those who do? To say that we love and then intentionally set apart or ignore someone for the sake of a judgment is nothing short of hypocrisy. Love exists without recompense, it does not need to be repaid in order to be given. Furthermore, if we take offense against those who are close to us and allow that offense to produce an action that results in them being set aside or shut out then we are not loving because as 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
1 John 4:8 says that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It is in the nature of our Father to love! It is so ingrained into Him that He is, in fact, the very embodiment of love! Because of this truth alone, we should apply ourselves to understanding that it is in our nature to love and that because He is the embodiment of love so are we! Who we are is entirely contingent upon who He is, therefore who He is determines who we are! When we live a life that is so fully surrendered to God that we give up our own nature for His then His nature becomes the very thing by which we live.
It is neither humble, nor submissive, to say that we love the Lord and to still live according to our own fleshly nature; in fact, Romans 8:13 says that “if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,” and Romans 8:6-9 “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”
The Spirit of Christ IS a spirit of love, and if we do not live according to that very spirit then no amount of proclaiming will ever make us His; think, “Lord, Lord have we not.” Simply put, to live in any way that is not according to the spirit of love is to live in enmity with God.
I have personally gone through so much within myself lately that I have had to step back and reflect on some things regarding this! I have spent most of my life reflecting on how others treated me— being stared at or talked about, and left out because of my arm— and the things that I experienced emotionally because of it, however, we do not live according to how others treat us. The call of our lives is to live as we would have others treat us, not as they do.
It can feel as real and breathtaking as a punch in the gut to pause and reflect on how much we actually do that very thing to others, whether they deserve it or not and whether they know about it or not. The smallest thing is no better than the largest. To say something negative about anyone, for any reason, or to treat them poorly in any way goes against the very nature of the spirit that we say lives in us. Let us be honest with ourselves, though, and ask ourselves this question regardless of how much it might sting or how much we may not want to admit it… “Who am I making a leper out of in my life?”
Who are we talking or thinking poorly of? Who are we treating poorly? Who are we ignoring or casting out for the sake of our own opinions or emotions? Who are we making an outcast of, neglecting, or living in even the slightest bitterness or offense towards over things that we have heard from others, or are telling ourselves? Is our conduct— that is thoughts, words, and actions— revealing the spirit of love that is Christ in us, or is it revealing our own fleshly nature?
Are we a people that reflect the carnal nature of the world, or are we a people that reflect the sacrificial and gentle nature of Christ? Proverbs 7:2-3 says to “Keep My commands and you will live; guard My teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” and Galatians 5:14 that “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” If the instruction of the Lord is that we should love others as we love ourselves, and we are to bind that instruction upon our fingers and write it on our hearts then our actions and our attitudes should, by all means, reflect that instruction to the fullest!
Something that is bound to your fingers will be connected to everything that you do and something that is written on your heart will be connected to everything that you think, feel, or speak. In fact, the Word tells us that everything we do flows from the heart! If our hearts are not intentionally surrendered to love, they will be intentionally surrendered to hate. We can only serve one or the other, we cannot be the slave of love and of hate, because we can only have one master; that master will be what we give ourselves to, whether it be to love or to hate.
I will be fully transparent and say that it stung when I asked myself the question, “Who am I making a leper in my life?” There are people who have hurt me deeply and I allowed that hurt to affect how I viewed them, their character, or their organization in a negative manner; which is honestly no better than the hurt that I was made to feel because of their actions. Truthfully, even when we are done wrong and it makes us feel like a leper and we allow that feeling to create a negative response of any kind in us toward that person, we then turn the person who did it into a leper as well… That is repaying evil for evil, an eye for an eye. Even if they do not know what we are thinking, saying, or feeling, we still make a leper of them!
No matter what the situation, no matter the impact, no matter the hurt, no matter the action that is done against us, and no matter what we might feel was done wrong against us whether it is justified or not our conduct should always reflect that of Christ; Who died for the people that hung Him on the cross!
Let’s let that sink in for a moment… Jesus died for the people that killed Him! We have a hard time living for the people who say something bad about us, how could we ever reflect a love like that unless we let go of carnal opinions and selfish emotion? Jesus included the people who cast Him out, yet we struggle to be kind to people who do something without telling us; acting as though they owe us. Jesus gave His time, affection, and life to those who spit on and cursed Him and we ignore and cast out those who have done something that our opinion says isn’t right.
If we in even the smallest and seemingly unharmful way treat anyone with contempt for anything at all, no matter how big or small it may be, then we minister the exact opposite of the spirit that is supposed to be in us!
What if we spend less time being concerned about how we feel, what we think, or what our opinion is and spend more time being affectionate to others despite those things? What if we stopped being so focused on ourselves that we were able to really focus on others? What if we stopped letting our own emotions, thoughts, or opinions determine our actions and loved others no matter what we think or feel? What if we stopped treating our friends like enemies, and started treating our enemies like friends? The love of God does not require an explanation for anything, it does not require that anything is returned, and it does not require that it be treated right in order to be given! It is given no matter what is done to it!
Today, let us love without hindrance! Let us be so full of love that our friends do not question our friendship and our enemies question why they are our enemies! Let us love today so that tomorrow even our enemies will no longer feel like lepers!