A story of forgiveness
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Description: How can we forego the urge to retaliate when we’ve been wronged? There’s a clue in the behaviour of an ancient servant whose master was ill.
Just imagine that an army raided your country and took you (and probably others) into slavery. You’d become part of the spoils of war and forced to obey. Your life plans would immediately crumple. Anything could happen to you.
But what if – before being captured – you believed you were under God’s powerful protection? You might think: how could he let this happen to me? Has my faith been totally misplaced? It certainly would be a big ask to shrug off enslavement, accept God’s ruling and enter wholeheartedly into a new life.
Into a life of enslavement
Yet a young woman from Israel was faced with exactly this situation. She was captured by a band of raiders from Aram and placed in the household of Naaman, commander of the king’s army. Her role was to serve Naaman’s wife.
Naaman was a valiant and highly regarded soldier, but he’d been afflicted with leprosy. The young woman could have been hard-hearted about his suffering, but instead showed her concern by suggesting to his wife that he visit the man of God in Samaria. She meant Elisha the prophet.
Kings get involved
Naaman duly sought permission for the visit from the king of Aram who decided to write a letter to the king of Israel asking him to cure Naaman. Whether or not the king of Aram had misunderstood, the king of Israel was in little doubt. Knowing he had no way of curing Naaman, he figured that the king of Aram was trying to pick a fight. It never occurred to him to seek help from Elisha.
Elisha nonetheless heard about the king of Israel’s panic and told him to send Naaman to him. Naaman then went along with a substantial value in gifts, but Elisha himself merely sent a messenger – and the message enraged Naaman. Whatever he’d expected, it wasn’t to be told to wash seven times in the Jordan river.
Naaman’s servants had to calm him down. They pointed out that he would have accepted being asked to do something difficult, why not do something easy? Bottom line, he obeyed the prophet and was fully restored. Naaman then went to Elisha and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant,’ (2 Kings 5.15). Elisha refused any gift and sent Naaman on his way in peace.
God in action
The captured young woman hadn’t allowed her heart to be overcome with resentment. Her kindness towards people she had every right to hate, led Naaman to be cured and made him a firm believer in the one true God. Working through her, God was able to demonstrate his power and his mercy to those who are willing to humble themselves.
Interestingly, there’s a sting in the tail. Unlike the young woman, Elisha’s servant was resentful. He couldn’t bear to see Naaman going off with all the valuable gifts Elisha had refused. He ran after Naaman and lied to him, saying that Elisha had changed his mind and would like a few goodies (though really he wanted them for himself). Naaman was more than willing to oblige, but Elisha was a prophet and soon confronted his servant.
As punishment, Naaman’s leprosy passed to the servant, but not just to him: to his descendants as well. His resentment had spawned greed, lies and, ultimately, terrible retribution. Clearly, God doesn’t want bitterness or resentment to thrive in any parts of our lives.
Pause for thought
Makes me wonder what God could achieve through us if we turn our backs on bitter, vengeful, and greedy thoughts and seek instead opportunities to offer wholehearted service, even to those whose actions grieve us.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.