Jesus and Defilement
Barb Knuckles has sent me some very thoughtful and helpful writings she has done in the area of our sexual brokenness and healing in this area. I asked Barb if I could share some of these thoughts on my pastor’s blog and she graciously said “Yes.” I found this particular writing on Jesus and Defilement very helpful. I have been meditating on how Jesus is pure and not defiled by us and able to bring healing into those places of defilement in our lives.
“Defilement is a huge issue with sexual abuse and sexual sin. There are a lot of scriptural references to defilement, but it is not a modern concept for us. It is an experiential reality. It isn’t the same as shame, and is not the same as sin. It is isolating, because it feels contagious. It is spiritually contagious, although I can’t explain it. The ritual cleanliness laws of the OT point to defilement’s spiritual contagiousness. I am careful about to whom and how I share my story because it can be defiling to those who hear. That’s ugly, and is a burden to me, but it is real, and is real to all who experience sexual abuse or are mired in sexual sin.”
“The woman with the issue of blood was defiled. We get hung up on that as cultural, but it doesn’t matter and that’s not the point. Her defilement was spiritually contagious. If she touched someone, it disqualified them from coming before God until they were ritually cleansed. But she touched Jesus. She spread the contagion to him. She dared to touch him, although she was careful to touch only his clothing and not to touch him.”
“The child in me did not want to be picked up by Jesus because I felt my own defilement so intensely that I believed that anyone who touched me would be dirtied too. How could Jesus, who is pure, touch a child like me? The defilement would get on him too. Then what? It isn’t dirt like the kind that can be showered off. It is like thick, black, tarry goo that sticks and fills me with revulsion. It’s not just outside, but inside as well. Everyone I have ever talked with that has experienced sexual abuse, describes it almost the same way, as thick, black, goo that is sticky and viscous, that is shameful and isolating. It is like spiritual leprosy. The wonder of the story is that Jesus was not angry. And the greatest joy is that he was not defiled by her defilement. Instead, he could remove her defilement for her and leave her clean. We miss the story if we interpret it as shame, or see the cleansing blood of Jesus as only cleansing guilt. It also cleanses us from defilement. I cannot tell you how important that it. Defilement always isolates. It is powerful.”
“Jesus’ continued invitation to let him touch me, and reassurances from my counselor, slowly began to break the grip of the sense of defilement I always carried with me. The defilement was not a lie, so it wasn’t broken the way a lie is dealt with, by denying it and replacing it with truth. The lie was that I could not be cleansed, and that it would contaminate Jesus and that he would feel the revulsion toward me that I felt toward myself. I kept holding back and asking him if it was OK, telling him he would get dirty if he touched me. It was incredibly hard to let myself be touched, to believe that if I got his robe dirty, it was OK. There was repeated cleansing and the cleansing was an act of God, by the blood of Christ.”
“The other similar story is the story of Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. She too was defiled, and she touched him. But he was not angry, and he was not defiled by her defilement. That is also a powerful touchstone story for me….”
“The truth I have learned is that God is pure, always pure, and he cannot be defiled. He is the only one who cannot be defiled by contact with defilement. Things that are isolating because they are defiling, can be taken to him. They ought not be casually dumped into the community around us. Some people have been given grace by God to bear witness to evil without being defiled.”
“Innocence is fleeting; purity is renewable for eternity. Those who walk with the defiled ought to be choosing and renewing purity, rather be than innocent. Innocence is shocked and frightened by the depth and defilement of evil. I know that the defilement I have felt is far less contagious than it seemed to me.”
“The stories of lepers are unique from other kinds of healing because of the defilement aspect. These people were ostracized but not because of guilt. They were contagious. They were unclean and experienced separation from community and from God. They had done nothing wrong. Defilement had befallen them. It took the power of Christ to cleanse them so they could reenter the community. He did not deny their defilement or say it was a lie, or that it didn’t matter because they were innocent victims. He cleansed them. He took it seriously. There aren’t many healings of lepers recorded. It takes incredible courage for a defiled person to ask someone who is pure to touch them. I can’t describe it, but the terror of defiling another is intense. Some prefer to spread it around, so they don’t feel so alone. But most children (at heart) simply hide.”
“This is an issue for everyone. We live in a culture that is defiling. We are dismissive of the idea of defilement. Or we close our eyes to it because it is less painful than recognizing and feeling it keenly, and we don’t like to be subject to the mockery and contempt heaped on those who cherish purity.”
In my sermon this Sunday, I look forward to lifting Jesus up before our eyes – He who is the image (ikon) of the invisible God, He who is the Firstborn over all Creation, He who made all things and sustain all things, He for whom all things exist, He who is supreme Lord over all, He who is the one in whom God is reconciling all things to Himself. It is in Jesus that we have hope of Rescue, Redemption, Restoration!