There are times, especially when I am under a deadline (to prepare a sermon or even this blog) and besieged with visitors and phone calls, that I long for some isolation. But probably none of us wants to actually live in isolation.
Yet a person with an infectious disease must live isolated from others. On the rare occasions we have the flu at our house, isolation is the order. We endure isolation for the good of the family community. When we have colds, we stay out of crowds, especially away from the elderly and small children, for their benefit, not for our own.
Chapter 13 detailed the kinds of infectious diseases that could separate one from the community. Chapter 14 details the process of re-integration within the community for those who, because of communicable illness, have been separated from it.
It’s a really big deal.
The cost of the ceremony is high – even for the poor. The ceremony itself is elaborate.
Because being a part of the community of God’s people is serious business. Separation from it is catastrophic. It is why no one in the community of faith should be allowed to “fall through the cracks,” and why, when a wandering member returns, there should be contrition on the part of the wanderer, and recognition on the part of the Church. In the story of the prodigal son, the father threw a party when the wayward son returned. So too, “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
You thought we were talking just about obscure sacrifices and cleansing ceremonies?
We are. The importance of the community, and being a part of it, is precisely the point of the somewhat tedious prescription of chapter fourteen.