Daily Devotional

Leprosy of the Character

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
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He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5, NIV.

I recall one particular Communion service at Masanga Leprosy Hospital. When it was time for the foot-washing service, I selected a leprosy patient who was part of the Masanga Town community. In times past he had been a thorn in the flesh for the hospital administration by organizing opposition to certain hospital plans.

I washed his feet first. He wore custom-shaped sandals, because his entire forefeet, including toes, had disintegrated because of his leprosy. When I knelt to wash his feet, he informed me I could wash only the left foot, because he had an ulcer on the right foot. The experience was sobering.

Leprosy is an interesting disease. For some reason the body's immune system turns a blind eye to one single germ - Mycobacterium leprae. It is unlike AIDS, which destroys the body's ability to fight any germ or tumor. The leprosy bacteria prefer cooler areas of the body, i.e., skin, mucous membranes of the eyes and nose, and superficial nerves throughout the body. Because of incomplete or no response from the immune system, the bacteria multiply unhindered.

Fingers and toes don't simply fall off, but they lose the ability to feel because of nerve damage. Without sensation there is no pain, and without pain there is no alarm to the brain that a thorn has penetrated the foot or that the hand is holding a pot so hot that it burns the flesh. These injuries and the subsequent infections don't hurt, so they tend to be neglected, resulting in further damage that eventually leads to gangrene and loss of toes, fingers, and more.

The spiritual lessons are many. It is not just total yielding to sin (broad immune system defeat, as in AIDS) that damages our characters. A single vice or pet sin (single bacterium immune deficiency, as in leprosy) can be equally devastating. With Holy Spirit insight we can perceive sin and get rid of it before it destroys us. But when our conscience is dulled and we experience no immediate consequence or pain, we're often not aware of the tragic results of our sinful ways until it's too late.

Lord, give me Holy Spirit insight to discern the little temptations that Satan wants to use to destroy my chance for living a more vibrant life.

Used by permission of Health Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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