Remember the cooties? The fake, but highly contagious childhood disease that you could catch from either being too close or too friendly with an infected person? The infected person was typically another child and could be the same or opposite sex. No gender bias here.
Some of you may remember the cooties as fun, affectionate play during recess or when your younger sibling dared to kiss you. Eww. Cooties! But it was all in good fun. Then there are others who were taunted and teased because you sat by the girl who never washed her hair, and now YOU have the cooties. Or when the really geeky boy whose pants were always 2 inches too short gave you a Valentine’s Day card—in class—in front of everyone. You’re now cootie-boy’s girlfriend. And you too, if only for that afternoon, were made to feel less than special. Maybe YOU were the girl who never washed her hair or the boy sporting hi-waters and bifocals. Maybe you were the one that seemed to always be infecting others.
I was talking to Reese and Ron Anthony about HIV/AIDS. Don’t’ even ask how we got on the topic. Specifically, I was sharing how Ryan White was the catalyst to us understanding the disorder and how he turned the country’s fear into compassion for those infected. In an attempt to keep the conversation Rated G, I used the cooties analogy. Indicating that he understood, Ron Anthony said, “Ah, like in Selma”. That’s another blog-
Long after the conversation was over I thought about how the childhood taunt became a teenage taunt. I thought about how I had played a role in several hurtful playground episodes of the cooties. I wasn’t the kind of kid to initiate the battering, but I didn’t defend anyone either. Rather, I would adamantly defend myself, “No, I don’t have cooties! I didn’t want to sit beside her! I HAD to!” That actually happened when the girl who never washed her hair and I were paired together on Scouts Day at school. She was a fellow Girl Scout…in my troop. I didn’t have much honor that day…
When I was in the 11th grade, a good friend got pregnant. She now had the cooties. The teachers looked at her with disappointment and disdain. The girls talked about her behind her back and the boys simply ignored her- erased her from the school population. What did I do? Well, I stopped being her friend, of course. I wasn’t allowed to hangout at her home after school anymore, talk on the phone with her or anything else that could possibly expose me to the contagion.
News Flash. Jesus isn’t afraid of your cooties.
We don’t call it cooties anymore. Now we say things like:
“She’s a divorcee. Don’t leave your husband alone with her.”
“He didn’t graduate from college.” Or better yet, “the right college.”
“His father was incarcerated. If it were me, I wouldn’t let my child go over their house for a play-date”.
“Their daughter committed suicide, but the dad is a pastor. Maybe he doesn’t really walk his talk.”
Unfortunately, some believers have been source of these feelings of shame, disgrace and isolation, and all in the name of Jesus. No secular bias here. I call them Spiritual Terrorists. Not like ISIS or Al Qaeda. These terrorists aren’t beheading anyone. A part from the physical death associated with the ISIS type, the outcome is similar in that Spiritual Terrorists undercut the right of others to walk in God’s freedom and mentally present God wearing a black eye patch and hook on the stub of His right arm. That’s not my God.
Who are these Spiritual Terrorists? Anyone who misuses God’s Word to inflict harm or shame; People who manipulate others with man-made church doctrine. They are essentially pouring cement over the hearts of God’s children. And all in the name of Jesus. These terrorists have the Mourner’s Pew for the unwed pregnant mothers. They use the bible to support positions of enslavement and the separation of the races. They assign blame or lack of faith to a person’s prolonged illness. Some equate poverty with righteousness, while others elevate a member’s position and authority to make church decisions according to their giving. And then there are the ones who carry signs like, GOD HATES GAYS. Terrorists! All of them!
WHEN YOU’RE UNABLE TO RECEIVE GRACE, YOU’RE UNABLE TO EXTEND GRACE.
Luke 5 (MSG) tells the story of how Jesus healed a man of leprosy, a debilitating and disfiguring skin disease. Deemed unclean, lepers were forced to live outside of the camp, in isolation until healed or their death. Leprosy eventually causes the individual to lose body parts. Fingers, toes, even the nose could possibly fall off. The smell is said to be nauseating. Worse yet, if someone touched a leper, they too would become unclean, having caught the cooties.
In verse 12, the man approaches Jesus and says, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.” The Word says that Jesus had compassion for the man. And then breaking Jewish law and custom, almost daring the Pharisees to say something, Jesus touches the man and simply says, “I want to. Be clean.” The man’s skin was made smooth “then and there.”
I love Jesus’ response. I read that line and can feel His love; not just for that man, but I can feel His for me. Timeless, it’s His response to us today.
HE WANTS TO.
Jesus is not afraid of your cooties. He’s not worried about getting His hands dirty or in fear of becoming unclean. He doesn’t want you living in isolation. He’s not scared to touch you; He wants to touch you. And He doesn’t care if the Spiritual Terrorists, uh, I mean –the Pharisees are watching. He wants you to be clean.
Do YOU want to be clean? Do you want to be made whole? WHAT do you need to be cleansed of? Cigarettes? Something harder than cigarettes? A broken heart? Promiscuity? A family reputation? What is that thing you pray no one ever finds out? It doesn’t matter what your leprosy is. Jesus is saying to you today, “I want to. Be clean.”
Zechariah 3: 1-7 (MSG) Next the Messenger-Angel showed me the high priest Joshua. He was standing before God’s Angel where the Accuser showed up to accuse him. Then God said to the Accuser, “I, God, rebuke you, Accuser! I rebuke you and choose Jerusalem. Surprise! Everything is going up in flames, but I reach in and pull out Jerusalem!” Joshua, standing before the angel, was dressed in dirty clothes. The angel spoke to his attendants, “Get him out of those filthy clothes,” and then said to Joshua, “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.” I spoke up and said, “How about a clean new turban for his head also?” And they did it—put a clean new turban on his head. Then they finished dressing him, with God’s Angel looking on. God’s Angel then charged Joshua, “Orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: ‘If you live the way I tell you and remain obedient in my service, then you’ll make the decisions around here and oversee my affairs. And all my attendants standing here will be at your service.