|Naaman - a call to a place of grace|
2 Kings 5:2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was chatting rather hesitantly with a former church friend who was still under treatment for a mental condition. He said he wanted one day to meet Jesus when he was at the same level intellectually. I reminded him that Jesus loves him where he is and was and will be. Jesus loves him as who he is, not someone else, and not whether he is good, capable, or intellectual. In essence that is the grace of God in Jesus Christ who loved us whilst we were yet sinners far away from God.
The grace of God is available to all of us, for we are all children of God, created in His image and dearly beloved. But it takes our choice to be healed, to accept the grace of God into our lives and to walk in this redeeming grace.
In the story of General Naaman of Aram was a great leader far away from the God of Israel yet the voice of God made near because of a humble young captive who was willing to share about the love of God in the midst of her captivity. The story of Naaman and his miraculous healing probably wouldn't have made it without the unamed captive from Israel who had told him of Elisha the prophet of God in Samaria who could heal him.
The Grace of God didn't come to Naaman in his own worthiness or where he was at. Here was a great soldier, proud and mighty but could not heal himself. He was outside the Kingdom of Israel and therefore not worthy to receive the grace of God where he was, being of another faith belief.
He came to the King of Israel with a letter from the King of Syria demanding healing. He didn't get very far. He tried to approach his healing as a right using his status as a leader and dealt with israel at an equal level of status. He went straight to the King instead of the prophet because the king was at his same level. Nothing happened.
The God of Israel had no covenant obligation to heal him. If he had stayed in the Kingdom of Aram where he came from, there would not have been any healing and the story not written. He had to move from his country to go into Samaria to be in that place of grace. He tried to command Elisha to come out to meet him, but Elisha sent his servants. He could have been so insulted and returned to Aram but he was desperate.
When we reach the end of ourselves, the end of our strength, there we find the grace of God and realise that it is not us, but everything is of grace totally underserved. That healing was found not in the gods that Naaman had sough healing from, but the God of Israel. When Naaman was finally healed, he declared:-
2 Kings 5:15-16 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
Grace is underserved, it cannot be earned, it cannot be exchanged for a gift. It is not by our works, what we have to offer, what we have to give. It has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our worthiness. You can't buy salvation by money or by good works of our own accord. Naaman although a great general was half dead in his sickness. He can't save himself.
All of us are unworthy of God's love, because we are sinners apart from God. Naaman had to learn to give up his own standing, his own righteousness by:-
a. Listening and following the advise of a slave
b. Seeking healing from a nation worshiping another God.
c. Being insulted by Elisha who treated him as a lowly servant instead of a great General.
And lastly, doing the most illogical and seemingly unscientific action to receive healing by washing himself in the river Jordon seven times. It must have felt so foolish and pointless, so is our baptism and accepting Jesus into our lives as a declaration of our faith. Yet, the foolishness of the Cross, and the resurrection of Christ, a stumbling stone for many, became the Rock of Salvation.
We are reminded that Jesus came a thousand years later, when for many who have lost hope and faith, found grace in the desert, in the river Jordan flowing through it by being baptised unto salvation hence receiving their eternal healing. They have to turn away, come out into the desert, and acknowledge their insufficiency to receive the grace of God in their lives.
2 Kings 5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.
Naaman had to come to a position of grace, not where he was as a great General, but to cross the line to another faith, to another God, and to humble himself because the prophet of the God of Israel. He had to bow down, and to humble and submerge himself in the waters of Jordan to a perfection of seven times rather than the many rivers of Syria.
We were never told of the name of the captive of Naaman, the young girl, who witnessed of the God of Israel. She shared with her slave masters the good news message that salvation is in the God of Israel. And today, the good news message is that salvation is in Christ Jesus through the baptism of the rivers of repentance humbling ourselves a lowly sinner dependent on God's grace alone.
The young girl is the heroin of the story for she remained faithful to God despite being taken into captivity. How many of us would have continued to share the Gospel message even though we are gay despised by mainstream christianity. God has a plan and purpose for us being born gay, and when we are able to give thanks and glory to God in whatever circumstances, God moves in a miraculous manner. The young girl probably had saved Israel for after the healing, the General did not attack nor conquer Israel. She saved Israel through her testimony of faith.
We can't make ourselves clean even if we choose to. It is when we realise that we can never be clean that we come into the position of grace to be made clean by the blood of the Lamb. We all can be chidren of God, children of grace, by availing ourselves to enter into the place of grace to receive God's love. But the Amazing Grace is that God so loved us, by dying for us even when we are so far off from Him that a way be made to come back to God.
Naaman found his way to God because he had a physical sickness but many of us do not know that we have a spiritual sickness being astranged from God. God loved Naaman as He loves each one of us, yet he had to humble himself and take the journey to Elisha who was a type of Christ. Are you desperate for God? that we may find God's grace through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
At river Jordan, we come to place of Grace where who we are no longer matters, straight, gay, men, women, rich, poor, a slave or a general. We are free to be ourselves when we are free in Jesus Christ to enter into God's grace for Love has gone before us. It is God's love that is calling us to enter into that river of grace where we may receive healing to accept ourselves. We need to be healed to learn to love and accept ourselves again, just as Christ has loved us. We are free to love ourselves because Jesus first loved us.
The Gay tribe is under captive and put into a closet by religion, by our family, community and by the state. The laws are against us. We exist but our rights are limited. It is in the midst of captivity, in utter humility that there is so much power and annointing of faith when despite our predicament we declare praises to Jesus just like the young captive girl who saved Naaman. What is your story of Christian faith today, the deep dark valleys that you have walked with Jesus.
As we proclaim our faith and share of God's love even in a lowly position (humbled as a gay person), God will make our testimony as a light to the nations. That is grace, totally unmerited, totally of God. Jesus came, died and rose again, totally by grace. We enter into this grace, by dying to ourselves in the baptism of repentance that we no longer live but Christ who lives in us. Hence, we become the hands and feet of Jesus, a vessel of God's love and redeeming message of the Gospel to a needy world.