Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled…" ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands…" ~ II Tim. 1:6

Author: WmTell

Spiritual Leprosy, Part 1: Recognizing the Symptoms

Some years ago, I read a book that had a chapter specifically devoted to pain.  I don’t recall the chapter heading, but if I had to guess, it would be something like, “The Blessing of Pain”.  The premise was essentially that pain was a good thing, because without it the body wouldn’t know that there was a problem, or that there was something that it shouldn’t be doing.

In that chapter, there were a few pages that addressed leprosy, because as it turns out, leprosy is an excellent illustration of why pain can be a blessing.  The disease’s physical ramifications were discussed, along with experiences from leper colonies (yes, they still exist, although they’re a foreign concept to us “first-worlders”) and observations from those in the medical field who have devoted their lives to pursuing a cure.

The observations about this disease frankly left me staring open-mouthed at the book while I mentally connected the physical with the spiritual.  I began to gain an understanding of why the issue of leprosy was addressed in scripture, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Leprosy is a topic that really isn’t on our radar screens.  For the most part, it doesn’t impact any of us.  We all know someone—close to us or not—with a serious disease:  cancer, diabetes, cardiac problems, dementia, etc.  Because of this, we have a sense of the seriousness and impact these have one people’s day-to-day lives.

I don’t personally know anyone with the physical disease of leprosy.  Not one person.  And I doubt that most people do.  That’s why the topic is not on our radar—it isn’t visible in our lives.  But scripture actually gives this disease a fair amount of attention.  In the Bible, we can find the word leprosy in the bible upwards of 40 times, depending on which translation you’re using.  Leviticus 13 and 14 is a major section that deals with this disease, a part of the “cleanliness” laws.  These chapters are somewhat technical and tedious, and because of that are not my favorite section of the Bible to read.  What they essentially cover are the identification of the disease, when to quarantine, and the remediation of the person/clothing/house.

So what are we to get from this?  In recent years I feel that I’m getting a glimmer of why this subject is covered so heavily in God’s word.

“…Written for our example…”

Although Paul made the statement in 1 Corinthians 10 specifically about the exodus from Egypt, we can be sure that this concept of scriptures being “written for our example” applies to the rest of the Old Testament scrolls.  Paul also described the purpose of the Old Testament scrolls, saying, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

So what can we learn about leprosy, and especially how it can apply to us in a spiritual sense?  Well, here’s what I have learned…

The physical impact of leprosy

Let’s start with some of the characteristics of the physical disease.  As we go through these, you’re free to get out ahead and start thinking of the spiritual implications and analogies for what we consider the ecclesia of Christ:

  • Leprosy has a long incubation period.  It can take years, even a decade or two, for symptoms to definitively show up.
  • It’s actually not easily contagious.  It takes close and repeated contact with someone who has untreated leprosy.  Children are more susceptible than adults.
  • Leprosy primarily attacks the nerve endings.  Left unchecked, this will lead to loss of feeling and muscle weakness, leading to atrophy and deterioration.

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When You Pray: What’s In Your Closet?

But you, when you pray, enter into thy closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which seeth in secret shall reward you openly (Matt. 6:6)

We can deduce the obvious meaning here, and have heard that repeated over the decades—don’t be showy in prayer, but rather make it a private conversation with your Creator.

That is valid, and you won’t find me in disagreement.  But is there an important message here that we’re missing?

I’m not one to arbitrarily find “deeper meaning” in everything or try to be the smartest person in the room.  But I do think that we maybe need to look below the surface a little more here.

…enter your closet

If you were to spend any time at all looking at archaeological findings in that era of time (1st century CE), you would realize that the concept of a closet, or a separate private room in a multi-room dwelling, was foreign except to the wealthy.  And I don’t think that Jesus Christ spent a lot of time instructing the wealthy, rather His time was spent with the common people.  So how could this teaching connect to their lives?  More importantly, what can we do with this teaching?

The best way I can illustrate this is with a phrase from the last several decades: “…coming out of the closet…”   In today’s age that has a very specific meaning to us, but the phrase also has a more general meaning that should be important to us as we consider the passage in Matthew 6.  This colloquial phrase means exposing a personal character trait that you or I have been keeping secret.  So how should this affect the way we pray?

It is my view that we all have a closet that we keep closed and don’t really want anyone else to get a peek into, including God.  Some of us have a closed door to an inner room and know it, and others have managed to fool themselves into thinking that they don’t—but we all do.  To be honest, we don’t even want to look in there ourselves!   It’s much easier to keep the door closed than to try to clean out the closet.

A conversation with a friend

Again, how should this affect the way we pray?  I’m going to get even more basic here:  what is prayer?

I think we tend to shroud certain “religious” issues with mystique.  Issues like bible study, meditation, worship, and yes, prayer.  The reality is, differences in personalities and experiences make each of us people that learn, muse, demonstrate passion, and talk or communicate in different ways.

Let’s take prayer.  What is it?  I suggest that it is simply engaging in conversation.  Obviously, this is a talk with someone who is far greater than us.  So anything I say here is not to mitigate intercessory prayer, thanksgiving, asking for favors or help, and so on.  But those things don’t facilitate a relationship.  Rather, they take advantage of a relationship.

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