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Faith and forgiveness: the compassion of a slave girl

Description: How can we forego the urge to retaliate when we’ve been wronged? Find a clue in the behaviour of an ancient slave girl whose master was ill.

Faith and forgiveness: the compassion of a slave


Imagine being captured during a raid on your country and taken into slavery. Your life as you knew it would be over, your dreams shattered. You would be compelled to serve your captors, forced into a life you never chose.

But what if, before your capture, you had unwavering faith in God’s protection? You might question why God had allowed such a fate to befall you. Was your faith misplaced? It would be a monumental challenge to accept this new life and trust in God’s greater plan.

Into a life of enslavement

This was the exact predicament of a young Israelite woman. Captured by raiders from Aram, she found herself in the household of Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army. Her role was to serve Naaman’s wife.

Though a mighty and respected warrior, Naaman suffered from leprosy. The young woman could have been hard-hearted about his suffering, but instead showed compassion. She suggested to Naaman’s wife that he visit the prophet Elisha in Samaria, believing the commander could be healed.

Kings get involved, so does Elisha

Naaman sought the king of Aram’s permission for the journey, who sent a letter to the king of Israel asking him to cure Naaman. Whether or not the king of Aram had misunderstood Naaman, the king of Israel was in little doubt. Knowing he had no power to heal anyone, he panicked, fearing the request was simply an excuse to invade. It never occurred to him to seek guidance from Elisha.

Nonetheless, Elisha heard of the king’s distress and instructed him to send Naaman to him. Naaman duly arrived, complete with grand gifts, expecting an equally grand gesture. However, Elisha merely sent a messenger with simple instructions: wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman saw this as an insult and his servants had to calm their enraged commander. They pointed out that he would have accepted being asked to do something difficult, why refuse something easy?

Naaman's leprosy - healing and transformation

Their urging won him over and, after following the prophet’s simple command, Naaman was miraculously healed. His response was immediate and profound: he acknowledged the God of Israel as the only true God. In gratitude, he offered Elisha gifts, which the prophet refused, sending Naaman away in peace.

The young slave girl's act of faith and forgiveness had a ripple effect. Her refusal to let bitterness consume her opened a path for Naaman to encounter the living God. Through her, God demonstrated his mercy and power, showing that humility and faith can lead to profound transformations.

Elisha’s servant - the twist in the tale

However, the story takes a dark turn with Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. Unlike the young woman, Gehazi was consumed by greed and resentment. Unable to bear Naaman’s leaving with all the gifts, he pursued him, lying that Elisha had changed his mind. The grateful Naaman readily gave Gehazi all he requested.

Being a prophet, Elisha soon confronted Gehazi. Naaman’s leprosy was transferred to the servant, but not just to him; to his descendants as well. Gehazi’s resentment had spawned greed, lies and, ultimately, terrible retribution. Such a severe punishment underscored the destructive power of greed and deceit, highlighting that God’s favour cannot be manipulated or bought.


The young Israelite slave's story is a powerful testament to the virtues of forgiveness, faith, and humility. Her actions not only led to Naaman’s healing, but also brought a foreign leader to the knowledge of the true God. In contrast, Gehazi’s downfall serves as a warning against the perils of greed and dishonesty.

Pause for thought

This story challenges us to reflect on our responses to life’s injustices. By embracing a spirit of forgiveness and humility, we open ourselves to being instruments of God’s grace and mercy in the world. We are shown how right it is to let go of bitterness and resentment and not let them cloud our judgement and actions. Just imagine what God could achieve through us if we chose to respond with faith and service, even towards those who wrong us?


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