We had an encouraging exposition in chapel this morning of 2 Kings 5. We were reminded of the incredible grace of our God as worked out in the life of Naaman – an enemy of God’s people, and yet miraculously healed at no cost. Our attention was brought to the way he became, as it were, like a little child (5:14) – and the parallels there with the little child (5:2) who’s own forgiveness was demonstrated in seeking the good of the one who had “carried her off” from her land and family. There were wonderful reminders of the costliness of forgiveness and the grace of our God – what a powerful challenge to live as people of grace.
I have been reflecting on this whole question of grace quite a bit recently. I am saddened by the way my own particular constituency of Christ’s church, which is (often) so good at preaching grace, often seems so poor at living grace (and of course I am including my own failures when I make this sweeping generalisation).
I think it is Tim Keller who reminds us that “religion is the default mode of the human heart” – and perhaps herein lies one of the reasons for this particular shortcoming. We can be so keen to believe and hold on to the truth (a right instinct) that we inadvertently make our own ‘system’ and understanding of ‘orthodoxy’ the religion that we follow – our own neat conceptions of what God is like (and likes!) become the idol of our heart. And anyone that doesn’t quite measure up is somehow ‘outside.’
And even as I write this, there is a voice in my heading telling me that some people will think I’m going liberal if I suggest that God’s own view of things might be slightly larger than our own carefully worked out systems. There is a sense that the ‘eyebrow of orthodoxy’ might be raised quizzically at the suggestion that loving Jesus and trying to follow Him might be enough – even if we don’t tick all the theological boxes we have tried to put Him into.
And that is why, as we were meditating on 2 Kings 5 this morning, that my eyes were drawn to verses 17-19:
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said. (NIV)
I take it that the request of verse 17 (and the declaration of verse 15 – “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”) is meant to demonstrate that Naaman had come to some kind of faith. And yet verse 18 shows that in the messiness of his life, he wasn’t going to be able to live quite the life a more orthodox Israelite would have demanded. Whilst I am aware that the issue here is one of praxis rather than belief, we see God’s grace on the lips of God’s prophet – “Go in peace.”
Lord Jesus, help us to live and speak likewise.