In his book, Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado writes about a man who felt called to minister to a leper colony. Father Damien of Molokai didn’t just go and visit on occasion, he moved there. He literally joined the colony. Within time, from living among them and dressing their wounds and loving the outcasts, the ones the rest of the world was afraid to go near, he himself contracted leprosy. He died a leper.
Part of me was inspired by this, but a part of me had an internal caution about this story. It’s not to be a license. It’s not saying that you should love the drunkards by becoming a drunk along with them. I wanted to say that we don’t love the sinners in the world by taking on their sin…but that’s not quite right. Jesus loved us by taking on OUR sin. Just like this father loved the lepers by being willing to take their leprosy upon himself. Here’s the difference though, Jesus didn’t DO sin, he took sin upon himself. He didn’t do wrong, he paid for the wrongs of others. This father accepted the pain and illness of leprosy upon himself in his love for the lepers, but he didn’t do wrong, he didn’t sin.
So that being said, I wonder about love in my own life. Who have I ever loved enough to take on their pain? Would I ever love anyone outside of myself enough to accept their suffering as my own, that I might share their burden and love them better? I don’t know that I could go visit the lepers…much less live with them…much less become one of them, literally. But isn’t this what God has called us to do? Hasn’t he told us to be like Jesus? To live as he did? And isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for us? It’s incarnation…God made man, in the flesh.
So who are the lepers around me? Metaphorically speaking, of course, since I don’t know of any nearby leper colonies. Who are the outcasts, the unlovely, the unacceptable, lonely, hurting, downtrodden and suffering? Who are the people God would have me love well, and not just from a distance? Who am I called to become one with?
Honestly, I cannot imagine such love.
“Rather than see people as problems, Christ saw them as opportunities.”
Max Lucado, Outlive Your LIfe