When the remedy is simple

April 6th, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14

We often make life more difficult than it needs to be. We do the same thing with our faith. Christianity, it seems to me, is simple. I don’t mean anything derogatory by that. I mean that Christianity has to be simple because it is meant to be lived.

I once kept a sign on my office wall: “Nothing is as simple as it seems. That is because nothing is simple, and nothing is as it seems.” I like that because it is an interesting bit of wordplay, and it does seem to have the ring of truth to it. We live in a complex world where solutions to most problems are anything but simple. Someone lingers for years with a debilitating illness. There is no simple explanation for a thing like that. Parents who have raised their child without any real thought or plan and worse yet, without consistency, may one day discover that their child has done something beyond the limits of social acceptability. They rush to the counselor wanting a quick fix—a simple remedy—to a problem that has taken fifteen years to develop. There is violence in the world, and crime, and senseless destruction of people and property. There is no simple way to get a handle on these things. Don’t be naive. Simple solutions are few and far between.

We also live in a world where few things are as they seem. We go to great lengths to appear to be something we are not. We want to look richer and smarter than we are. The marketing specialists push new products that bear little likeness to the items we cart home from the store. We are masters of disguise.

Life is such that when we do stumble onto something that is simple, we are likely to overlook it or dismiss it as ridiculous. So I return to the thought that Christianity is simple. God loves us. God sent his Son to us. God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient. There are complex problems in the world, and to seek simple answers to them is naive. But it is just as foolish to seek complex answers when simple ones will suffice.

Today’s Old Testament text tells the tale of a person of some importance, although certainly not as much importance as he wished to think. Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a mighty warrior. He was, as we say, “somebody.” Did he have a flaw? I mean, other than his arrogance? Yes; he had leprosy.

Word reached Naaman, through a captured slave girl serving his wife, that the captured girl’s people had a prophet who could cure Naaman. The king of Aram sent Naaman to the king of Israel seeking such a cure. The king of Israel tore his clothes because he could not do this thing he was being asked—he could not cure this mighty warrior’s leprosy.

When word of this awkward situation reached Elisha, he asked that the man be sent to him. So Naaman, with his horses and his chariots and his whole entourage, pulled up in front of Elisha’s humble dwelling. Elisha sent word to Naaman that he should go and wash seven times in the river Jordan. That’s when Naaman lost it. Here was some obscure prophet in some little corner of the world in his humble little house. Naaman was the mighty warrior, and Elisha wouldn’t even come out of his house to greet him. And what did the prophet want Naaman to do? Wash seven times in the river Jordan. Who cares? What kind of remedy is this? Wash? In the river Jordan? Didn’t they have better rivers than this back home? What an insult! And with that Naaman stormed away, heading for home.

His servants finally calmed him and said, “If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13). Yielding to the saner moment, he did as Elisha had suggested, and he was made clean.

Naaman thought too highly of himself. That was the flaw that got in the way of his easy acceptance of a simple cure. He took offense. He felt slighted, snubbed. He felt he wasn’t given the respect he should have been given. Any of us will too often feel that our circumstance is different from everyone else’s. I knew a woman once whose husband had died. She was the most miserable person I think I ever met, for she was certain that her grief was worse than anyone else’s. When we think we are someone special, or that our circumstances are unique, or that we are better than other people, we will almost certainly overlook the remedy for our woes when it is simple.

There are three turning points in this healing story. It is easy to concentrate on Naaman, the mighty warrior, or on the prophet, Elisha, or on the interaction between the kings of Syria and Israel. Yet, the first turning point in the story is the simple witnessing of a captured Israelite slave girl. It was her voice that sent Naaman in the right direction. Never underestimate the power or the necessity of your personal witness to another in need.

The second turning point in the story came when Naaman’s own servants spoke words of encouragement. He wasn’t even going to try the simple remedy that was offered, but what saved the day was the intervention of his servants, who suggested that if it had been some difficult thing, he wouldn’t have walked away. Naaman began to see thereasonableness of at least giving it a try. Never withhold a word of encouragement.

The final turning point in the story came when Naaman decided to accept what God had offered. He did what the prophet of God suggested, and he was made clean. Always accept what God offers. Always do what God suggests.

Nothing is as simple as it seems? Not true. The miracles of faith and of a Christian life lived out by the grace of God are certain and available to every one of us. Trust in God. It sounds too simple. Still, trust in God, and everything in your life will fall into place.

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