Naaman the Syrian
The grace of God -- if it is, in fact, the grace of God -- should tick us off once in a while.
Grace goes to places that don’t much matter to us. Grace finds people from whom we would just as soon see good things withheld.
Grace leapfrogs over our assessments of where and what the need is. It breezes by our values. It is as ornery as the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is ornery. So it’s ornery.
Speaking of ornery, Jesus drops four names from the Hebrew Bible while he is preaching – the setting of our texts for this Sunday – and he for sure rubs folks the wrong way. Elijah helped a widow in Zarephath and Elisha saved Naaman the Syrian, he reminds them.
Everyone in the synagogue knows this to be true. They take offense because Jesus, grace embodied, goes out of his way to emphasize the identity of the two on the receiving end.
“There were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah... yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian (vv.25-27).” Yeah, that was never going to go over well.
About Naaman the Syrian: he is a sermon unto himself. His encounter with Israel, rather, is a treasure trove. Grace finds him. God’s people are vessels for what he can’t get elsewhere. When all is said and done, his skin is healed (2 Kings 5:14) and so is the relationship between the nations (6:23). Look him up.
Of course, the reason that grace doesn’t irritate usallthe time is because it can be piercingly sweet (a child’s unexpected apology or a partner’s sacrificial gift).
*Also, with a little time, study, and spiritual maturity, we tend to see something of Namaan in ourselves. And then we really thank God that grace is…grace.