Black and White Skin Disease
On a crowded flight recently I made my way to my seat only to discover I’d be sitting next to a dark complected African man with an obvious case of the skin disease Vitiligo: the patchy loss of skin pigmentation. So intense was the contrast of colors on his face, it took a conscious effort to not do a double take. It took literal intention on my part to look him in the eye, as the natural thing would have been to stare at his face.
Being honest, as my arm rested on the armrest against his, I had the fleeting thought that the black/white patterns on his arm were Holstein-like. Surely you would not have thought the same, but I did. (Perhaps the years I milked cows on a Wisconsin dairy farm brought that to mind first). During the flight, I figured out that the seat on the other side of the man was empty because the person assigned to that seat had asked to be moved. Compassion welled up in my heart. It is one thing to have a disease on the inside; it is another thing to have it on the outside.
Rather than read, I closed my eyes and reflected on what life must have been like for this fellow. Surely his family gave no thought to his appearance, as things we are used to seeing fade into the background naturally. Perhaps children found him frightening. Knowing that most cultures would marginalize him as unclean, I thought about the levels of rejection he likely faced.
Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep
Knowing how God loves and values each person, I thought through the plotline of the Beauty and the Beast believing that underneath the hideous facade there was surely a prince. The story of Job also came to mind as Satan stepped up his attack on Job to a whole other level by striking his flesh with painful sores. Being well-versed in the Biblical passages where Jesus touched lepers, I thought of how the teachers of the law required people to walk on the other side of the road when a leper passed by. In fact, lepers were required to call out “Unclean!” as a warning those near them. People would scatter a safe distance away.
A decade ago I preached in a couple of leper colonies in southeast Asia and I remember, at that time, thinking about whether or not it would be a waste of my life if God called me to give my life to serving them there. Those who know God and His compassion understand it would not be a wasted life to wash the sores of the afflicted.
We know more about skin diseases today. Consider shingles, for example. It is a virus-based infection of the central nervous system and contagious, but only to those who come into contact with open sores. Nonetheless, skin diseases pack a greater measure of shame because they are visibly evident.
Rejection vs. Love Test
The irony of many skin diseases is that the root issue (like anxiety, fear, self-rejection and self-hatred) increases as the blight develops and becomes more evident. It is known that those struggling with anxiety and those who are under emotional stress are more susceptible to the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), which causes shingles. The medical community is still trying to connect the dots as to how and why viruses seem to attach themselves to emotional and spiritual problems. Most ointments prescribed for skin diseases are topical anti-histamines. The body responds to fear, anxiety and stress via the over-secretion of histamines. Again, the irony is that for many skin diseases these root issues causing them to manifest are compounded by the outbreak and additional rejection results.
Proteolytic enzymes are enzymes that help you digest the proteins in food. Although your body produces these enzymes in the pancreas, certain foods also contain proteolytic enzymes. Papaya (the unripe fruit) and pineapple are two of the richest plant sources.
God’s remedy is acceptance and love. These are the very things Jesus imparted as he literally touched afflicted people. Of course, there are natural remedies for shingles and other skin diseases (including things like fruits with proteolytic enzymes and amino acid supplements). But, this column touches on the supernatural remedies, which are every bit as important as the things we apply in the natural.
There is also some association in the Bible between curses and skin diseases. On numerous occasions, God even afflicted people with blights, leprosy and sores as a measured judgment. It is also a strategy of demons to come against the faithful in hopes they’ll turn and curse God. Each of us can sort out what we believe about the degree to which God allows the curse of skin afflictions.
As we love hurting people and pray for them, there are times we sense we might need to break curses that are coming against them. More often than not, we have found these curses are self-imposed. As we plead the blood of Jesus over a person’s life and pray with authority and compassion, these curses can be broken.