Surveys of Western life describe how loneliness and isolation are increasingly common among all age groups and social strata. In general, people seem to have fewer meaningful relationships. Sub-groups in our society—those on the margins economically, culturally, and socially--are even more prone to isolation. But this circumstance is not new. People have faced lives of isolation since Bible times.
Hearing the Word
Read Mark 1:40-45
A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.
Responding to the Word
Leprosy in ancient times was a disease that didn’t only affect people’s bodies, it also cut them off from society and meant they weren’t allowed to worship God in the Jewish temple. How does Jesus address the leprous man’s emotional, spiritual, and physical isolation in the way he chooses to heal him?
The man makes a bold, risky move by coming so close to Jesus and begging to be healed. What about you? What in your life makes you feel desperate enough that you would make this kind of bold move to ask for Jesus’ help?
This interaction with the leper is relevant for our time and culture. Most of us experienced isolation during the pandemic. People are still isolated today—people seen as "unclean" because of lifestyle, mental health, a language barrier, or physical disability. The aged and those who live alone or without a home face daily isolation. Have you experienced isolation, temporary or longer term? How did it make you feel? If you know someone who faces constant isolation, how do they feel?
Jesus broke through the isolation that defined the leper’s experience. He not only healed him physically but also addressed the isolation itself. The leper’s illness separated him from his community. His illness was physical, emotional, and social. It makes sense why he would ask Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was willing, and instead of shunning this man like the rest of the community, Jesus reached out and touched him. He connected, interrupting the isolation this man lived in. In the same way, Jesus longs to reach out to us and bring healing that impacts every area of our lives.
What is God saying to you through this passage? Are there ways you feel isolated, in need of connection and/or healing? Explore this and speak to God about how you feel. What would you ask God to do for you or show you?
So many people around us feel isolated. How can you take appropriate steps to break through the isolation and show love to people? List or imagine all the means you might use to reduce the loneliness and isolation of specific people in your sphere of influence.
Talk to God about these people and their need for connection. What action are you prompted take in response?
Broaden your understanding with these recent JCN articles:
"Frontline Nursing in a World of Isolation": https://journals.lww.com/journalofchristiannursing/Fulltext/2021/07000/Frontline_Nursing_in_a_World_of_Isolation.5.aspx
"Faith Community Nursing: Identifying and Combating Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults": https://journals.lww.com/journalofchristiannursing/Fulltext/2021/10000/Faith_Community_Nursing__Identifying_and_Combating.13.aspx
"A Faith-Based Intervention to Address Social isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults": https://journals.lww.com/journalofchristiannursing/Fulltext/2023/01000/A_Faith_Based_Intervention_to_Address_Social.12.aspx