Day 32 – Devotional & Discussion April 10, 2014

Leviticus 13:45-46; Mark 1:40-45

The Law stipulated that those with a leprous disease (a description of any skin rash or disorder) had to live in a separate place—isolated from family and friends.  While they were free to roam around, they always had to announce their condition so as not in endanger others. Once again we see Jesus refusing to shun those who have a mark, but instead offers treatment and reintegration into the community. 

Today’s laws stipulate that people with certain criminal records be restricted as to where they can live, who they can be with, and what activities they can participate in.  They must register with the police any time they move so the community can be notified as to their whereabouts.  Beneath the policy is an unwritten belief that these people are beyond redemption or change.

Do you think our isolation laws ensure public safety or do they perpetuate anti-social behavior?  What does Jesus’ action teach us? 

2 comments

  1. I’ve heard before that sex offenders are modern lepers. The concern over forgiving sex offenders was in the Lancaster news a few years ago, as a local org was being very intentional about expressing forgiveness to them, proving housing, etc. To me the difference is that the lepers were banished because they had a disease, not of their own fault, that was infectious, whereas sex offenders are monitored because they intentionally hurt others. It is very easy for me to think that Jesus reached out to the lepers because they were unfairly mistreated due to no fault of their own. His interaction with the Pharisees was quite different. They intentionally hurt people. Could we make a comparison, in that regard, to anyone that intentionally hurts others? To me the hard part is knowing how to respond to those who intentionally hurt others, but then are penitent, asking for forgiveness and restoration. Yes, we forgive. Yes, we work toward restoration. But to what degree do we forget the crime? Does forgiveness require that we remove all consequences? Perhaps we still enact consequences, but gradually remove them as the offender works through a process of counseling, change, etc? Maybe they start with monitoring, but eventually earn back their privacy, anonymity, etc?

    1. I’m encouraged to hear that there are organizations that are attempting to serve sex offenders. That said, there is a legitimate need to protect children/youth. Just yesterday a youth pastor in a Chicago suburb was charged as a sex offender. And we know that pedophile priests have been a scandal for the Roman Catholic church. Jesus had strong words for those who harmed children, so this is not about being soft on crime. However, I believe there is a strong general sentiment that sex offenders should be isolated forever and never be reintegrated into society because treatment never works (when in fact it does). I also believe that the isolation can be psychologically harmful and may contribute to additional anti-social behaviors. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians where he lists all those who will not inherit the kingdom and then adds, “and such were some of you, but you have been washed….” There always has to be space for redemption. One study suggests that up to 80% of juvenile sex offenders (mostly males) had histories of both physical and sexual abuse. A community of Christ-followers needs to consider ways to minister to survivors of sexual abuse (at any age) so the cycles can be broken.

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