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Grace and peace to you and through you …
Last week in our reading from 2 Kings 5 we were introduced to two people. They couldn’t have been more different from each other yet we found them laying side by side, separated only by a tiny punctuation mark. In verse 1 we met Naaman, the commander in chief of King Aram’s army. In verse 2 we met a nameless slave girl. These two are polar opposites and yet connected. Connected in how Naaman was the cause for the girl’s capture and slavery and connected in how the girl was the catalyst for Naaman’s healing. I guess that is how it goes: we are either contributing to people’s oppression or liberation.
From Naaman we learnt that if we take any verse of our life and read it carefully we will discover contradictions. Naaman was successful and sick at one and the same time. Naaman was victorious on the battlefields of war and defeated in the secret chambers of his heart. We are always saint and sinner across every verse of our life. We see that a perfect CV does not a perfect life make. There are areas of our life that stubbornly refuse to be polished. Healing and liberation will escape us until we accept this unsatisfying fact, rather than anxiously try and fix it. Some things cannot be fixed. Some things thrive especially when we try and get rid of them. Some things feed on being fought. Some things only evaporate when we acknowledge them. Some things leave only after we have welcomed them. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said: “Do not resist an evildoer.” Jesus then went on to instruct his followers to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Well long before Jesus spoke these counter-cultural-words, this slave girl lived them out. She lived them into being in relation to Naaman. She knew that part of the death that Naaman carried within his body resulted from the death he had caused to other bodies. So she wisely and bravely medicates him: “Go back across the border – this time not to pillage and murder – but to ask for help from those who have every reason to hate you.” Who doesn’t have places and people to return to because we left part of our humanity there?
She knew that if Naaman were to find healing it would be by grace alone and the healing itself would be grace. Grace is love we don’t deserve. Grace is most acutely known through the love of those who have every reason not to love us. If there are parts of us that can only be healed by grace then it means there are parts of our being that can only ever be healed by our enemies because our enemies have experienced us at our most sick, our most brutal and our most deadly. It is our enemy’s forgiveness that reaches to the depths of our dis-ease like no other. Their mercy manages to extract every last fiber of tumor twisted around our stone-like heart. The best surgeons are our enemies who have exchanged their knife of revenge for a scalpel of healing. No wonder Jesus says we should love our enemies.
May we find both Naaman and the slave girl within us.