Tonight with my youth group I want to explore 2 Kings 5 with my youth group (the one’s that didn’t go to Houston anyway). I like for our kids to discover truth on their own, instead of always pointing it out. After reading 2 Kings 5 a couple of times, I am really convinced that there is a great lesson in this narrative about dealing with prejudice and racism. We tend to shy away from those words. No one really wants to be a called a “racist.” And yet, prejudice and racism are, and have been a part of cultural heritage from the arrival of the first Europeans in the “new world.”
I am more convinced than ever that God is not a big fan of racism. I know that there are those who have skewed the pages of Scripture to try and justify certain erroneous views. I would argue that these folks have a twisted hermeneutic. The Old Testament makes a big deal about protecting the holiness of God and his people. Yes, there were laws about intermarrying with non-Jews. The reason being, according the Scriptures…to keep Israel from turning away from Yahweh. It is really that simple. However, attempts in justifying prejudicial attitudes continues, and the Bible is their proof text.
Let’s just be honest, we also get the sense in Scripture that once firmly rooted in the Promised Land, Israel did sort of take on a ethnocentric view of itself. They were after all God’s chose people! We know that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along, and over the course of several centuries ancient Israel fought against a whole list of nations ending in “ites.” But, 2 Kings 5 reminds readers, masterfully, I might add that God is bigger than our prejudicial attitudes. Notice how the chapter opens, vv 1ff by mentioning that Naaman was not an Israelite, and as the story progresses he learns from a captured Israelite young girl that he could be healed from his leprosy by going to Israel to see Elisha. He goes and is eventually healed. Naaman, is amazed at the healing he receives and the power of Yahweh, and commits his sole allegiance to the God that healed him! And then v 17 astounds me, Naaman asks for some Israelite dirt, to take with him. The text doesn’t ever mention why he asks for dirt, however, it seems that he wanted a reminder of his healing and quite possibly was going to build an altar to Yahweh? But, also, I think it is the author’s way of indicating that God was on the move, that God was/is active in the world extending the borders and boundaries of his kingdom and reach in the world. God was willing to reach into the heart of an unclean Aramean, how awesome is that! Naaman came seeking healing, and he receives it. He also leaves with the shalom of Yahweh!
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha is a crooked servant. Upset that his master didn’t receive the gift that Naaman offered, he devised a plan to persuade (actually LIE) to Naaman to get a few coins and a couple of pairs of new clothes. When he returns, Elisha confronts him, and Gehazi has the nerve to lie again. Elisha calls him out, and as a result, Gehazi winds up with Naaman’s leprosy. The author of this narrative invites a comparison between Naaman and Gehazi. Gehazi is supposed to be one of the servants of Elisha, he had witnessed awesome deeds and knew the word of the Lord. He is acting rather deceitfully and is judged. Naaman, on the other hand is acting more in accordance with the hospitality expected of God’s people. Elisha’s actions are important too. He is a spiritual leader in Israel. He knows Israel’s enemies, and yet when one poor soul comes into the land he loves seeking hope and healing. Elisha doesn’t refuse.
We can learn a lot from the Scriptures, if we take the Word of God seriously. Prejudice and racism only further fractures and wreaks peoples lives. We need to remember a couple of things:
- We need to remember that God made all mankind (Gen 1:26-27)
- We need to remember that we are equal before God (Gen 3:19; Gal 3:2; James 2:1-12)
- We need to remember that God loves all of humanity (Jn 3:16)
- We need to model the ministry of Jesus
- Jesus was called a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
- He touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, and spent time with people others over looked (Jn 8; Matthew 8:3)
- It is time we root our identity in Christ alone (Col 3:3; 2 Cor 5:17)
- We must work to erase hate, and love the outcasts in our communities! (1 Peter 2:11-12; Matthew 28:19-20)
May we go forth in the Shalom of God to eradicate hate in all its insidious forms, and be the people of God that, in Christ we are recreated to be!