Probably every family on earth has a skeleton in its closet—a painful secret, an embarrassment or sin it would love to go back in time and undo. Even in the pages of scripture, families are often presented as combat zones, featuring selfishness, favoritism, in-fighting, illicit sexual behavior, rivalry, violence, betrayals, negligence, stubborn unforgiveness, and sheer breeding grounds for future generations of sin.
Those of us stung by this reality know we should bring it to Jesus, but the very mention of that fact almost sours us. It sounds so…clichéd. We look at the size of the problems, of the tempers involved, the impossible dispositions, and the sheer vastness of estrangement that has developed. Compared to these, a “little Jesus” and some token prayers and happy verses seem ludicrous.
And yet this is precisely what we do not mean when prescribing Christ as the solution to in-family strife. “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” (c.f. Heb. 4:14). This is hardly a naive answer to life’s troubles.
Nor is it one confined to personal problems.
The scenes of symbolic salvation in Leviticus chapter 14 move on from the issues of leprosy in an individual to that of an entire house. It is serious. The dangers of mold in a dwelling, even today, are noteworthy. In ancient times, however, it was not so much a hygienic concern than one of ceremonial corruption.
A house represents the place of communal fellowship. In a polluted state, it therefore has the potential to negatively affect multiple lives. Though a blighted church can easily do the same thing on a larger and more destructive scale (some interpretational applications in Leviticus 14 actually fit a church better), the most direct analogy of a leprous house would be to an actual family somehow contaminated with sin.
God therefore gives directions for when, He says, “I put a case of leprous disease in a house” (Lev. 14:33).
The fact that the Lord Himself had sent the affliction demonstrates an abiding corruption within the family unit, apparently hidden from an outsider’s view, but seen and abhorred by His omniscient eye.
“Then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest” (Lev. 14:35).
In New Testament terms, this means getting Jesus involved. And as we read forward in the chapter, the prescribed course of treatment to be carried out by the priest is a fitting picture of Christ’s patient, careful observation, His removal of affected stones, and scraping of the interior.
To New Testament ears, it all sounds so painfully intricate, and yet only two main results usually occur in the settling of family situations–repentance and forgiveness.
First, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). He must guide the sinner to authentic godly sorrow, and a desire for the constructive repair of the relationship. Due to pride and blindness, we would never go there on our own. Nor can this repentance be faked to look real. Otherwise, after surface “repair,” the leprosy will reemerge, and as Leviticus 14 shows, will result in the entire house being torn down. Chronic strife, malicious words, and polarization in the home, if left unaddressed, will have destructive effects, just as Jesus warned that “a house divided against itself will not stand” (Matt. 12:25). He Himself also made allowances for the dissolution of a house due to unrepentant adultery (Matt. 5:32).
The other side of household strife involves forgiveness. Jesus said, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). The Lord warned us that we have an unconscious habit of holding onto offenses. Pop psychology offers all kinds of excuses for unforgiveness, and even tries to relabel it in clinical terms. But when we remember an offense with the same anger and resentment as the day it occurred, it is simply unforgiveness by another name. We appeal to the grace of God to extend forgiveness to others because the alternative is terrible: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15). Unforgiveness can morph into a bitter leprosy of its own, spreading its misery until the whole house is desolate.
The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). After all, real salvation not only benefits us, but those closest to us.