Leviticus 13–15, Psalm 35, Mark 8
After reading these chapters in Leviticus, I am left wondering what they are saying to me. Are they a kind of checkup guide for states of holiness or, rather, ritual cleanliness? Or more like a check of one’s state to find out whether one is clean or unclean ritually? By the end of Chapter 15, I am curious as to whether some healing will be administered. To my surprise, nothing of the sort is done. One is only pronounced either clean or unclean and given some instructions about what to do about one’s status. One lot is even required to go about calling out “Unclean, unclean.” What a humiliation! To what end I wonder? Ritual purity was important, and the possibility of “contaminating” others all too real, a situation which would affect the wholeness/health/purity of the community and in turn affect their relationship with their God. Those who have to shout “unclean, unclean” are 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 themselves for HIV and broadcast their status; however, I am convinced that each of us has a moral duty not to infect another (willfully or inadvertently). We have an obligation toward ourselves, our neighbour, and God to know our serostatus, and our conscience should move us to declare the same.
These biblical passages 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 be tested 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 stripes we are healed. Amen.
-The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga
Bishop of Southern Malawi