Faith- 07/11/19

”The Other”

By Pastor Jerry Donovan

Trust is a highly valued commodity these days. In our faith, Jesus’ command to love God and to love neighbor is one of the simplest sounding instructions we have from the Bible. Yet, we cannot even get that right because we do not know how to love our neighbors. Why? Because we do not trust them. We like to think that we trust our neighbors, but as we see in our unjust criminal justice system, as we see in our crisis at the US-Mexico border, as we see in our local churches, as we see in our school systems, as we see in our families, we do not have trust.

The background to an interesting story in 2nd Kings 5:1-14 is the history of conflict between Israel and Syria. Naaman is a mighty Syrian warrior who has won many victories over neighboring nations, including Israel. An Israelite slave girl offers what is likely to be the only possible hope for a cure for Naaman who has leprosy. She tells her mistress that the prophet Elisha in Samaria could cure the leprosy.

However, both kings misinterpret the simple problem of a man’s disease. The king of Syria demanding the cure be made by his royal Israelite counterpart, when the servant girl clearly stated that only the prophet could do such a thing. And the Israelite king convinced that the Syrians are using Naaman’s leprosy as a trick to provoke war. And Naaman himself, playing the part of the puffed-up great man, refuses to perform the tiniest request that could lead to his cleansing.

Without the servants in this story, the little girl, the prophet’s messenger, the general’s slaves, Naaman would still be diseased and Israel and Syria would once again be at war. In this story, the cleansing actions of God are found in the unlikeliest of places. Is it possible that even we tend to look for God in all the wrong places?

This scripture for me is about trust in God and it is about trust in the “other.” Trust is an inheritance from God. God has entrusted us with the stewardship of the world, everything from the natural realm to our relationships with one another. In turn, we are called to trust God in word and in deed.

In light of this passage, it stands to reason that trust in God leads to trust in the “other.” This flies in the face of the operating wisdom of the world. The “other” is misleading; the “other” is wrong; the “other” is so different that they cannot be trusted. Yet, Naaman trusted the “other,” and his flesh was healed. Likewise, we are called to trust Jesus Christ, the Incarnate One who draws us to the “other” and says “love them,” that the world may be healed. To love is to trust.

What would the world look like if we were to operate from a position of trust rather than suspicion? I also wonder, “Must we be desperate like Naaman to learn how to trust one another?” Should it take something dramatic and momentous like the diagnosis of leprosy to produce this trust? I hope not.

In our divided world, in our divided churches, in our divided communities, in our divided families, we could certainly benefit from more trust: trust in God and trust in/through neighbor. What first steps shall we take?

The transformation of the world hangs in the balance.