Unclean

August 21, 2018
by Katherine Bell

Mark 5:29 – Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (NIV)

In Jesus' time, menstruation and gynecological issues made women unclean. Leprosy made anyone afflicted unclean. Being of a certain race or from a certain place, such as Samaria, led to one being relegated to second class, compared to a Jewish person.

Being unclean meant not having the same respect or rights that full members of society would be entitled to. Being second-class meant that a person could not even come into the temple or have a direct relationship with God.

Today, when I read this story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and was healed when she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' garment as He walked by, I can relate to the woman who felt marked and ashamed by her situation. I, too, have felt that way. I am divorced. I am overweight. I regularly fall short of what God would have me be. Though I have felt "on the outside", I also know that unlike the lepers in Jesus' time, it has been a temporary state. In fact, I am privileged to be of a group accepted by our mainstream society. My race, my religion, and my education afford me acceptance and respect in our culture. Even more, though, my situation is temporary because of God's mercy and forgiveness, which allow me back into His inner sanctum.

Your situation is different than mine, but I am certain that you have had your own times of feeling unclean, times when you, too, felt marked by your shame and unacceptability. Hopefully, there have also been times when you felt joy at being healed by Jesus and accepted back "home".

This story makes me ask: Are there still people whom we treat as unclean today? Do we have outcasts here in this time and place? Do they know of God's mercy and forgiveness offered to all of us?

In Canada, all people have the same basic legal rights and privileges, which is different from Jesus' time. But culturally, our society continues to put roadblocks in the way for some people. Race, gender, sexuality, weight, poverty, able-bodiedness, and addiction still divide people into who is acceptable and who is not. Those roadblocks often exist within our Christian institutions and communities as well as in society at large. We may not say it overtly — we may not even be aware that we are saying it at all — but in many subtle ways, we still communicate to people that they are "unclean" and that they should keep their distance, even from our churches.

I challenge us to remember those times when we felt like the unclean woman, when our choices or our situation made us outcasts in our society, even perhaps in our church. We need to carry this understanding with us, when we meet those who are in the middle of those feelings now. We also need to be actively looking for those people who are being excluded and to talk them about the healing that Christ has brought to us. Inside or outside of the church, everyone needs to be welcomed with kind acceptance into that healing. Everyone needs to be reassured that God loves them. Everyone needs to know that there is a place waiting for them in God's family.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank You that in Christ, we belong to You and that nothing we do and nothing we feel can separate us from Your love. Reveal to us those who are feeling far from You. Give us courage, through the Holy Spirit, to reach out to them, especially when it means breaking out of our comfort zones. We trust that when You lead us to share, You will also equip us with what we need, to do what You ask of us. We align ourselves with Your will and surrender ourselves to Your use. Amen.

About the author:

Katherine Bell <katherinefbell@yahoo.ca>
Richmond, Prince Edward Island, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank-you for your message today!


    Thanks for the inspiring words, Katherine.


    Loved your vulnerability … speaks to me and so many others.


    Very well put.
    Thank you.


    Well said Katherine.
    (Tx)


    Thank you, Katherine, for reminding us that we belong to Christ and He makes us acceptable regardless of ethnic origins. Blessings.


    Well said! A message I personally needed to hear once again.
    May God continue to bless you in your circumstance as he gives you courage and direction to share this message.


    Great devotional today Katherine. You are so right that we continue, perhaps some of us not as overtly as before, to treat others as “unclean”. I think some people in the church are actually some of the worst offenders. Thank you for shedding light on this issue. God Bless you.


    Thank you, Katherine, for your devotional today. It is thought provoking, relevant, heart-felt, so very true, convicting, helpful, and sincere.
    Really gives us some food for thought!
    God bless you.


    Dear Katherine:
    I couldn’t agree with more. I too have the same struggles that you mentioned plus a few more.
    I am very grateful to you for speaking out about this subject.
    I am eternally grateful to God for saving me and healing me.
    Thank you again Katherine and may our Lord and Saviour surround with His loving care.


    What I see as people treating people of unclean — Mental illness, LGBQ1, epilepsy, diabetes or any problem where a person must take daily meds, street people, overweight, old — this is what I see.
    Over the years we have had a minister pretend he was a street person then showed who he really was really surprised the whole congregation.
    (ON)


    Good morning Katherine,
    Thank you for your submission of today’s devotional. It is very meaningful and reminds us how pleasant this world would be if each of us showed the same respect and love for each other as the Lord’s love and grace is extended to us.
    Blessings,
    (B.C.)


    Hi Katherine,
    I can relate to your challenge. In the summer of 1949, we had been here a year and both my dad and I were working in a local hardwood flooring factory. We came from Holland. At some point one of the employees said to me, “Why don’t you ****** DPs all go back where you came from”. I explained that we were not DPs, that my dad, in fact, still owned a house and a business in Holland, both of which he had rented out for 5 year. In case he did not like it here or if he could not make it here we had a place to go back to.
    I did not retaliate. I was only a teen at the time. I just considered the source, and that is what we have to do at times.
    Thank you for writing.


    Awesome devotional. Amen to your prayer.


    Dear Katherine,
    Thank you for your message culminating in the prayer.
    May God continue to bless you as you write.


    Dear Katherine,
    Your devotion, “Unclean”, reminded me once again of the wonderful healing of Jesus. Many years ago I was shunned and excommunicated from my cherished childhood church, which included many of my own nucleus family who were members. I had interpreted this to mean I had lost my salvation. I was absolutely distraught and felt like the essence of my being had been stripped away. I felt filthy and alone spiritually.
    I searched for answers. I was brokenhearted and became depressed. I went to pastors all over the place to find help, or a reasonable explanation, or direction. Either I couldn’t comprehend, or they couldn’t explain with scripture.
    Then I simply turned to Jesus and told Him I would continue to follow and serve Him even if I went to hell at the end. At some point I was able to submit myself to God in a new way.
    God used the “shunning” to teach me that Jesus Christ IS the essence of my being. Praise His name that I know I have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. He lives within my heart to share with others.
    Much appreciation to you Katherine for the blessing of your devotion which reminded me again of God’s cleansing power available for everyone to receive.

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