One intractable problem on which all three political party leaders were agreed on TV last week was crime – especially youth crime. By no means is Jersey free of that sort of problem.
The solutions proffered were all along the same lines – more policemen on the beat, education, sentencing policy alterations, prison reform and so on.
But it became obvious that these solutions were externalities. The problem was inside people.
The Bible, in both its Old and New Testaments uses leprosy as a simile for sin.
Interestingly, leprosy features around 1350 BC in the Old Testament (that part of the Bible that was originally the Scriptures of the Jews, the archives of the nation of Israel). At that time instructions were given by the LORD to protect the people as a whole.
When skin disease presented itself externally the affected person must be examined closely by the priest - an independent and experienced third party. The examiner had to determine whether the skin disease was purely external or whether it was a manifestation of an internal disease that would, in those days, require complete segregation from society. (In the same way Jersey hospitals, and those elsewhere, have to isolate patients with MRSA these days.)
Leprosy as a parallel for sin? Yes. Sin external and visible? Yes, plenty of that around. But sin internal and hidden (for a time)? Yes, in me.
Moreover (see above) sin is within even the most accomplished people in our world. Naaman was “in high favour” as a victorious leader, a courageous powerful man.
How clearly we’ve seen this in connection with the global financial crisis. Sin within a highly successful career – and then sin uncovered. And have we forgotten the highly acclaimed (for a time) senior executives of Enron? And we have our own Jersey folk of great ability, flawed and unhappy within, covering bad external conduct with great care. In fear.
Leprosy features in the New Testament (that part of the Bible that has resulted from the bringing together of 27 books/letters starting with four biographies of Jesus Christ). Right at the beginning of Jesus’ public life one of his first cures (again a parallel regarding sin) was of a man with leprosy.
Jesus cured him. The Greek verb in the original manuscript was kathariso = cleansed.
It seems that Jesus knows about our struggles with internal sin – and external sin. He instructed the man to go and to show himself to the priest.
I wonder what the priest found when this leper was examined closely with expert eyes. Did the priest say, cleansed internally as well as externally?
None of the three last week – Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg – would dare suggest Jesus of Nazareth as the answer for crime within. “External solutions only, please” was an unmentioned – but nevertheless real - constraint on the three leaders last week. That constraint was both self-imposed and required of them by the public at large.
It was the same for Naaman around BC 860. It was an Israeli servant girl, in exile in Syria, who told Naaman’s wife, her mistress, where the cure could be obtained. And obtained it was. And is.
Even around BC 520 a man in Jerusalem named Zechariah could see into the future when he wrote. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened ... to cleanse from sin and uncleanness....”