By Bishop James Tengatenga
By the end of reading these chapters in Leviticus I am left wondering what they are saying to me. A kind of check up guide for states of holiness or rather ritual cleanliness. More like a check of one’s state to find out whether one is in clean or unclean, ritually. By the end I get curious as to whether some healing would be administered. To my surprise nothing of the sort is given. One is only pronounced either clean or unclean and some instructions about what to do about one’s status. One lot is even required to go about calling our “Unclean, unclean”. What a humiliation! To what end I wonder. Ritual purity was important and the possibility of “contaminating” others all too real and thus affecting the wholeness/health/purity of the community which in turn had an effect on their relationship with their God. This lot that has to shout “unclean, unclean” is of particular interest to me in my Malawi context of HIV and AIDS and the consequent imperative to know one’s status for one’s own good and that of one’s neighbour.
It may sound immoral to require people to test and broadcast their HIV status, however I am convinced that each one of us has a moral duty not to infect another (willfully or inadvertently). We have an obligation towards ourselves, our neighbour and God to know our sero-status and our conscience should move us to declare the same. These biblical sections are talking about people who suspect that they may have a skin disease. Testing for HIV does not necessarily mean that one suspects that one is positive but I believe that knowing is better than not knowing because not knowing does not mean that one is clean. I would take it as a religious duty to test and be declared one way or the other. Once I know I also know what I ought to do.
What can give us a status of uncleanness before God and our neighbour?
What benefits would it be to us if we were to “come clean” with our neighbour on whatever matter there is between us?
O most holy God of life and wholeness grant me the desire to know how I stand with you and my neighbour so that I may hear your word to me and so seek salvation in this life and the next; Through Jesus Christ our Lord by whose stripe we are healed. Amen
Bishop James Tengatenga is the Bishop of Southern Malawi