Okay, I admit it. I once had scabies.
I'm talking about them now, simply because I know that I am not the only one. Satan uses fear to torture, and one of his main tactics against the church is to divide, isolate, and conquer. Christ died to make us one in Him. Scabies? Satan? Huh?
First things first. Scabies, in non-medical terms, are little mites that live under the skin. We sometimes use that phrase about people (cooties), but these are tiny insects. They lay eggs, hatch larvae, burrow, and eat flesh, all just beneath the surface of the skin. They release a little toxin that causes allergic reactions in their host, causing an inordinate amount of excruciating itch. Scratching breaks the skin, allowing the eggs and mites to reach the surface. Contact with other people or their clothing, bedding, etc. is what spreads them. These little mites infect people of all classes and ethnicities all over the world. They've been doing this for the last 2,500 years or so. 1
How did I get mine? Well, I guess in either work, play, service, or in just plain living, I came in contact with someone else who had them. I've learned that they seem to be quite common.
Before I got mine, I had only the vaguest, most distant awareness of them. I knew next to nothing about them, and naturally, never even thought of them. But one night, I began to itch, terribly. Next day, I mentioned this to a few people at the gym, and oddly, someone else had the same itch.
After talking to a few more people in different areas of my life, I did discover another person with itching. So, I did what they were doing. I went to the drug store and bought some cream. Didn't help. I went back and bought a different cream, one with a different chemical. Didn't help. I thought perhaps I had allergies, or dry skin, or something like that. Eventually, I purchased three or four different creams and began using them all. Nothing helped. The odd thing is that I couldn't see anything at all on my skin--no redness, no bumps, no rash, nothing.
But the itching became excruciating and spread to all parts of my body. It would begin in late afternoon and intensify, until round about 2 a.m. it would become unbearable, to the extent that there was no possibility of getting back to sleep. The darkness, my tiredness, the weirdness, the "hellishness" all added to my fear and discomfort.
So, finally, I gave up on home remedies, which were not working. I had not been able to cure myself, and I still did not know what was even wrong. I went to see my family physician. This kindly woman listened to me and looked at my skin where I said the itching was. Like myself, she couldn't see anything--no rash, no redness, no bumps. Although she mentioned the word scabies, she discounted it, since nothing was visible. Another cream, this time by prescription, a little bit stronger, yet still, very similar to what I had already been using.
Nothing. No relief.
At this point, I asked to see a specialist, a dermatologist. By now, having done some research of my own, I was strongly suspecting that I had scabies. I didn't care about the shame--I just wanted to admit it, get the cure, take the treatment, and be made well.
This dermatologist listened, took one quick photo of a small, red, nondescript, yet definitely itchy spot, magnified it, and said, "Bad news and good news. Bad news--this is a classic photo of scabies! You probably have four or five of these on your whole body. Good news--they are very easy to get rid of." Yes, he did give me another cream, but as it was an insecticide, it did the job overnight. Of course, one has to wash everything as well, and vacuum, something we do frequently anyway.
Then, the dermatologist shook my hand with his bare hand. Shock! "After what you just told me, you're shaking my hand?" "I have twenty minutes," he said, "and I will wash my hands." His kindness overwhelmed me.
Although the cream killed all the mites and eggs beneath my skin, the allergic reaction to their past toxin continued for another four weeks. My doctor had told me that would be the case. Because I was still itching terribly, I had to simply accept by faith that those scabies were indeed dead.
So, why am I confessing my scabies in a public column such as this? It was traumatic for me, associated with great shame, and a good deal of emotional pain, not to mention the extreme physical discomfort. But, because I was cured, I want to share the good news with someone else, who perhaps also is suffering.
However, there's more than this. I once had a condition that was far, far worse than scabies, though in many ways very similar, and that's my real reason for sharing this with you now.
That other condition is called sin.
Similarities to scabies:
- I didn't know I had sin until the side effects got most unbearable.
- I went through a period of denial and self-administered cures of various sorts.
- I picked up the sin contamination from my parents, who also got it from theirs, ad nauseam.
- When I found that I couldn't cure myself, and when the symptoms became no longer tolerable, I overcame all my reluctance and fears of exposure, and went for help. Finding help meant that I had to confess the details, just as with telling the doctors all the symptoms of my itch.
- I had to receive and administer the healing cure the doctors, in this case God my Father and Jesus my Savior, gave to me. The cure they gave me was to eat and drink the flesh and blood of Christ as represented by His death and resurrection on the cross. Belief in Him rendered ineffective all the sin inside of me.
- Even though I had confessed my sin to the Lord and to His servant, the church, and even though I had taken the cure of Jesus Christ, the consequences of my past sin--analogous to the continuing allergic reaction of body itch to the toxin of the scabies--the consequences of past sin continued beyond the point of salvation. I had to accept by faith that the cure of Christ's dying on my behalf had really worked, even though I couldn't see immediate results.
- Finally, walking with the Lord requires daily cleansing, analogous to washing the bedding and clothing and keeping the house vacuumed and clean. This daily cleansing occurs by daily confession to the Lord and daily reading of His word.
Praise God! Praise Him for His goodness to men. Here are some verses concerning the lethal condition of sin common to all members of the human race, with the exception of--no one.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 1:12 But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God's children.
Luke 13:3 No, I tell you! But unless you repent, you will all perish as well!
Romans 10:9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.
Romans 10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. (Joh 17:17 CSB) (This verse refers to daily cleansing.)
Ephesians 5:25 ...just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. (Eph 5:25 CSB)
I pray that if anyone reading this thinks they might have scabies, they will go to see a dermatologist. And, I pray that if anyone thinks they might be suffering from untreated sin, they will go to their heavenly Doctor, the Great Physician Jesus Christ, even sooner. There is a cure--why wait any longer?