The Cleansing Of Lepers
Chapter 13 deals with the test for leprosy: "The man in whose skin or flesh shalt arise a different colour or a blister, or as it were something shining, that is, the stroke of the leprosy, shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or any one of his sons. And if he see the leprosy in his skin, and the hair turned white, and the place where the leprosy appears lower than the skin and the rest of the flesh: it is the stroke of the leprosy, and upon his judgment he shall be separated. But if there be a shining whiteness in the skin, and not lower than the other flesh, and the hair be of the former colour, the priest shall shut him up seven days."
I want you to apply this not to leprosy but to sin. It is a precious passage. When you see something that you think is sin, in a brother or sister, what are you supposed to do? What were the Israelites supposed to do here? They were not to pass judgement on it themselves, for they could have been wrong. It may not be leprosy. This is the lesson for us too. It may not be what you think it is. So take the matter first to the Lord and or to the Priest. (Aaron and his sons symbolizing Jesus the High Priest). Let them deal with the matter. If you follow this simple principle, you can you can be saved from so much that destroys you and others. If an Israelite could only humble himself and say, "I am not a priest. So let me take him to God's appointed priest", what a lot of problems could be solved. And if you could humble yourself and do the same, what a lot of false rumours and confusion could be avoided in the church.
We noticed here that he priest does not pass judgement immediately on the basis of what he hears. Many Priest, unfortunately, pass a judgement, as soon as they hear a matter, without verifying whether the matter is true. The Bible says, "He that answereth before he heareth sheweth himself to be a fool, and worthy of confusion." My favorite paraphrase of this verse is in the Living Bible. "How stupid stupid to decide without knowing all the facts"-The Living Bible.
The Priest here looks carefully at the person, examines every part, asks him question, and only then determines how serious the case is. What peace there will be in every troubled parish if the Priest follows this simple principle taught here!
The Lord says, "Be very careful. It may not be as serious as you think; or it may be more serious than you think. So examine the person carefully, make full allowance for human error, and then decide whether to pronounce him unclean or not." If the person has to be put out of the camp as a leper, do so. This is the way discipline should be carried out in the Church. After careful examination, finally, if the brother or sister has to be put out of the Church, then do so.
Sometimes the priest may not be able to come to a firm conclusion on first examination. Then he says, I am not sure that this is a serious case "Let us 'shut him up seven days' and then I will see him again." (verse 4). Many of us don't like to wait when we see something we think is wrong in a brother or sister. But God is concerned that innocent people are not punished-both under the old covenant and the new.
We must see another very important thing here: The aim of the priest was always to bring the leper back into the camp healthy, one day. And so the priest would look at the person again after seven days. If he was not happy with what he saw, he would ask that the person be brought back after another seven days. And if the infection had gone by then, "the man shall wash his clothes, and shall be clean." (4-6) If, however, he was still not clean, then for the sake of protecting others inside of the camp he would be put outside of the camp, and isolated. No doubt the priest would examine him once again after some more days. Do you see the attitude of the priest here? His aim was to try and keep the man inside the camp as far as possible. Only as a last resort would he put him out.
And that, Jesus said, must be our attitude to an erring brother- "gain thy brother" (Matthew 18:15) Try every method possible to save him from his sin. If nothing succeeds, then put him out (Matthew 18:17, I Corinthians 5:13). But even after he has been put out, if he repents sincerely, bring him back into the fellowship of the Church. (Romans 11:22)
This unfortunately, is so different from the attitude that I have seen in many parishes and dioceses today, where they not only tear believers apart, but also drag them down. If you want to be a new-covenant Bishop, learn how to deal both in kindness and in strictness with sinners in the Church. (Romans 11:12).