Naaman, the great Aramean warrior, accepts the free gift of salvation. He submits to God. He vows to worship and serve only God. He is healed. He is cleansed of his leprosy. He is whole. And it came as a free gift from the God of Israel!
Naaman’s theology, though, is still a little mixed up. He takes a bunch of Samarian dirt home with him because he believes Yahweh can only be worshiped and served on his own regional soil. He still plans to attend the civic/religious ceremonies at the pagan temple of Hadad-Rimmon in Damascus, which is certainly not what Elisha is used to and certainly not what’s prescribed in Scripture. But instead of beating him over the head with it, instead of stealing his joy by telling him he’s not clean, he’s not saved, until he conforms perfectly to the way we worship and the way we believe; he’s not whole, he’s not right, unless he sees things the way I see them and does things the way we do them; instead of correcting or rebuking this new child of God, Elisha simply says, “Go in peace.”
Elisha leaves Naaman completely to his new faith, or better yet, completely in the hands of his God who sought him and found him and saved him.
Gehazi is the one who ruins it. Elisha’s servant, the for-profit prophet, destroys the message. He distorts the gospel and insults God when he runs after Naaman and asks for the gifts and payment that Elisha refused. Gehazi’s attitude is revealed by his words. “This Aramean!” he says. “This outsider, this foreigner! Elisha let him off the hook. Elisha made it way too easy on him. This man is an enemy! He owes us!”
Shame on Gehazi, who was stricken with Naaman’s leprosy the minute he got back to Elisha’s house.
I think the church family here at Legacy is about to really start reaching out to our community. I see signs of it everywhere. And I’m beside myself with anticipation. I hope Small Groups plays a big part. I hope our new buildings here will be a major draw. And the people we’re going to bring into the Kingdom by the grace of God will be outsiders, foreigners, on several different levels. They may very well be enemies — enemies of our comfort zone, enemies of our decency and order, enemies of our property values, enemies of our traditions.
Shame on us if we tell them they have to act just like us or that they have to think and talk and believe just like us. Shame on us if we force them to dress like us, pray like us, or worship like us. Shame on us if we in any way obligate anybody to anything or anyone other than our Heavenly Father, his Resurrected Son, and his Holy Spirit.
Our God didn’t reach out to Naaman because he was worried about his leprosy. He was concerned about Naaman’s salvation and an eternal relationship with Naaman. May our focus always be on God’s vision and God’s plans for his Kingdom, not our own. And may he work through us to save the outsiders and foreigners in our community.