Have you ever experienced the joy of helping someone? I’m sure you have. There has been a person in need and you are the right person at the right time to make the difference. I can see a few scenarios of what this may look like.
One is when it is a person that you care about. You really like this person, whether family or friend, and you have the opportunity to really bless them and make them happy. It feels really good. There is also the experience of a person that you don’t really know. You don’t have either good or bad feelings for them. It might be as simple giving a stranger directions or letting a car get in on the highway. When I was a youth pastor, we sent teens across the city to perform random acts of kindness to total strangers. It is still a highlight of that chapter of my ministry.
But what about about people who have not been nice to you? Perhaps they have deliberately made your life difficult or may have even abused you in some way? I’m talking about someone that if most people saw the opportunity, they would absolutely withhold the blessing. Our natural impulse may be they don’t deserve the help. Compassion is earned or at least it can be withheld as punishment in certain cases. These are natural temptations. But the Bible points us to a different way.
Healing of Naaman
Let us quickly update where we are at since our last message in the series. Last time we saw that the prophet Samuel had anointed David as the next king of Israel. After King Saul’s death, David became king and it was the golden age of Israel. Unfortunately things got worse from there. The twelve tribes broke up with ten in the north becoming Israel and the two in the south becoming Judah. The kings of Judah were a mix of good and bad and the kings of Israel almost all bad. There was conflict between Israel and Judah, as well as with Aram, which is another name for Syria.
This brings us to Naaman. Naaman was an important commander in the Aramean army. It would seem to have it all together. He had a position of influence, had personal skill and was wealthy. When Naaman said jump, people asked how high on their way up. But Naaman had a problem. He suffered from leprosy. Leprosy was not just a physical problem, it was a social and emotional problem. It was a source of shame and it often put up barriers to others. Naaman was a contradiction of strength and weakness.
One of the people in Naaman’s household was an Israelite girl who had been captured and forced to serve his wife. She suggested to Naaman’s wife that he go see Elisha, who was a great prophet of Israel, like Samuel of old.
Naaman went to Israel and the Israelite king reluctantly sent him off to Elisha. This was a humbling experience for the great warrior. Not only did Elisha not come out personally, he gave instructions that Naaman felt were below him. He almost didn’t make it through but he swallowed his pride and was miraculously healed. Not only was Naaman healed physically of his leprosy, he was also healed spiritually. He became convinced of the reality of the God of Israel and determined to worship only this God and no longer the gods of his people. It truly was a beautiful miracle.
The Hebrew Slave Girl
There is so much we could look at in this story. We could look at Naaman and his struggle to overcome his pride. Humbling oneself is an important part of coming to know the true God. We could look at Elisha, this amazing prophet who was able to perform miracles. He demonstrated that God’s power was far greater than the military might of Naaman. But we are not going to do that.
We are going to look at a character who only appears in two verses and whose name is never revealed. we are going to look at the Hebrew slave girl.
Not much information about her is given but it is enough for us to fill in some of the gaps. This girl was working here not because she saw a job ad and thought it would be an interesting experience. Aram and Israel were often at war and during one of the raids, this young girl was captured, removed from her family and forcibly placed in Naaman’s household to serve his wife. They were not trying to give her a better life, they wanted a slave and they got one.
Imagine yourself in that girl’s position. You might feel some bitterness toward your masters. But we see something strange here.
She was not tortured in order to reveal information that would help Naaman. She offered this information purely by her own choice. In fact, it really looks like she desired that her master would be helped, in spite of what he had done to her. There almost seems to be a desperation, an urgent wish that Naaman would be healed. She would not benefit in any way from this and yet she wanted the best for the man who owned her. Why would she care about Naaman and his suffering? Why not pray that his leprosy would get worse? As a worshipper of the God of Israel, she loved others, even this non-Israelite who owned her. She not only did not wish him ill, she actively sought to help and bless him.
Let that sink in. Could you do the same thing if you were in his position? Hopefully you are not living in state of slavery. But what if you could bless someone who had made your life difficult? What about that boss who always passes you over for promotion and never gives you time off? Would you go out of your way to help them and even make them look good before their superiors? What about a neighbour who never cleans up the mess from their dog? Would you shovel their driveway without being asked? The scenarios are endless.
This is a them that is very important in the New Testament. Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. That is a radical kind of love that doesn’t make sense apart from faith. Even Jesus, when he was on the cross, prayed to his Father, “Forgive them for they not what they do.” Jesus was interceding for those who were killing him.
We can shift this from personal attitudes to the nature of ministry. What happens when the people we try to reach out to do not make it easy? What happens when Christian ministry in our community makes our lives more difficult and push us outside our comfort zones. Is there a point when a person no longer deserves our ministry? This girl had no reason to want to help Naaman and yet she felt compassion for him that went beyond circumstances.
Many of us want to be a blessed people and there is nothing wrong with that. But what would it look like if we were a blessing people? What if we blessed, not just those we liked or were neutral toward, but those who had made our lives more difficult? Imagine the impact we would have, not just on the people were were blessing, but on those who observed that kind of love.
This slave girl has set a very high standard, the same standard that Jesus calls us to do. It won’t be easy but it will be rewarding.