As a physician for over 45 years, I have treated many diseases under many different circumstances, but have never treated an individual with leprosy ( Hansen’s Disease). For a long period of time in our country, people with Hansen’s Disease were isolated in one of two hospitals specifically for their treatment, and one with which I was familiar was located in Carville, Louisiana. Many of the patients admitted there never left. A world renowned hand surgeon, Dr. Paul Brand, spent his last professional years serving there, and I had the privilege of performing several hand surgeries with him while I was in training as a surgical resident at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He was a medical missionary for many years in India where leprosy was so prevalent and developed numerous hand operations to correct the deformities caused by Hansen’s Disease. Dr. Brand is the author of several well-known books, including “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” and “In His Image.”
Hansen’s Disease is a communicable disease caused by bacteria very similar to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Of all the communicable diseases, it is one of the least communicable, and is now curable with the medicines currently available. In Biblical times, leprosy was one of the most dreaded of all conditions because there was no treatment at all. Whoever had leprosy was isolated from everyone according to Mosaic Law; considered unclean and forbidden to have any personal contact unless the other person also had leprosy. Frequently a bell was hung on the neck of a leper to announce his presence, so that the unaffected could flee the area. A leper was commanded to cry out “unclean” whenever he approached a “clean” person.
A common misconception of the pathology of leprosy is that it is similar to a cancer that slowly invades and destroys healthy tissue, particularly the hands, feet, face and the skin of other areas. The leprosy bacteria in fact, invades and destroys peripheral nerves, leaving the person with the loss of sensation in the skin of the toes, feet, fingers and hands among other body parts. It is this loss of sensation that allows the person to continually sustain undetected injuries to the affected parts with subsequent infection and tissue loss. The pathology is similar to the condition of neuropathy associated with diabetes.
There are a number of Biblical references to people suffering with leprosy. In at least 2 instances (Matthew 8: 2-4; Luke 17: 11-19) Jesus not only touched but instantly healed the people with leprosy. Because Jesus came to heal the sick and set captives free (Isa. 61: 1), I believe He touched and healed many more people with leprosy than is recorded in scripture. In His encounter with the 10 lepers in Luke 17, He told the only one who returned to Him, that his faith (the faith of Christ in the man) had made him well.
The sin in one’s life can be compared to leprosy in that it desensitizes, separates and isolates. For the non-Christian, sin separates that person from the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, and until that one repents and receives God’s saving grace, his life will be a continuing downward spiral to destruction. For the Christian, unforgiven sin will desensitize him to the normal Christian life, which is so freely available, and cause a separation and isolation from other believers who are walking in the truth of the Word. The treatment and the cure for the non-believer as well as the believer, of the leprosy of sin, is the daily ingestion and application of God’s healing Word. The treatment is readily available, the cost is free and the resultant cure is instant. Please don’t delay treatment—it will be hazardous to your health! (I John 1:9)