Victims of sin can in turn become some of the worst sinners, themselves.
She was livid, yelling, and cursing the boy who had broken her heart. He was sheepish, tried to tell her that he no longer felt what they had was right. He brought God into the conversation, apparently hoping to appeal to some higher authority than his own boyish indecision. That only turned up the heat. She mocked him bitterly at the awkward attempt to be spiritual, especially after months of leading her on, of making promises and now failing to deliver on a single one.
Her volatility was reasonable. But later she bogged down in a swamp of anger, training her guns not only on the boy, but the church, and then from the church, to God Himself. Finally, she announced her conversion to a dark sexual lifestyle, and then the angriest form of atheism. The tragedy of it all is that she still thinks she showed everyone else a thing or two.
We humans are fragile creatures, and foolish. Our emotional state can turn into a literal sluice into the Mariana Trench, and as we enter its icy, dark depths, we think the trip is worth it. They’ll be sorry, we think.
Though the Bible doesn’t condone emotional stuffing and avoidance, much less pretending, it warns us about the dangers of being hurt and choosing to live there. Rather than cycle through the many plain precautionary notices scripture delivers to us, I’ll once again turn to the picturesque counsel of Leviticus:
Lev. 13:18 “If there is in the skin of one’s body a boil and it heals, 19 and in the place of the boil there comes a white swelling or a reddish-white spot, then it shall be shown to the priest. 20 And the priest shall look, and if it appears deeper than the skin and its hair has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a case of leprous disease that has broken out in the boil.
In this case, leprosy (or any one of a variety of contagious skin diseases) breaks out in the wake of a boil. Of note, a boil appears because bacteria enters the skin through a tiny cut or insect bite. It is impossible to calculate how many such tiny wounds appear in the context of a close community like church fellowship, or even inside the family itself. Many of these develop based on little more than our willingness to nurse them into full-blown grudges. Without the cross actively at work in our lives, a small insult or perceived slight, even a misunderstanding magnified by a foul morning mood, can grow into an infectious attitude that spreads. It contaminates not only the individual believer, but others in his or her circle of contact.
13:24 “Or, when the body has a burn on its skin and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a spot, reddish-white or white, 25 the priest shall examine it, and if the hair in the spot has turned white and it appears deeper than the skin, then it is a leprous disease. It has broken out in the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a case of leprous disease.
The girl whose story I began with could say she had been “burned.” Often we sustain such psychological injuries by surprise. We couldn’t see them coming. They are instantly painful, and depending on their severity, may leave lifelong scars. God does not deny us the right to process the pain, and yet we are never more susceptible to the devil’s strategies than during that phase of healing. There are, after all, a lot of other ways we could react to trauma, some of them darkly satisfying.
And so many of us set off on those paths, seeking revenge that launches an enlargement of leprous sin in this world. On a perverse rant, we hope to make others feel the hurt, the sorrow. Though there is never a good outcome—never—pop psychology promises victims that they will feel better at the far end of satisfying their appetite for retribution. Sin, it is said, will heal them.
But attacking our way through a list of culprits won’t do any good. For having punished each, and still not finding peace, we will eventually arrive at the ultimate person we judge responsible—the God who allowed it all to begin with. Fighting Him though, will be as productive as resisting oxygen, or water, or food, or any other thing necessary for life. The harder we try, the worse off we will be.
Instead, Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Mt. 11:6). A spiritual windfall will come from allowing our pain to drown in a sea of divine wisdom, of fully and finally consigning our situation into the hands of God.
It’s an active promise of inward healing for all who trust that He, not blind circumstance, or sinful people, is in charge of our souls.