At least three things fell completely outside the grasp of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1ff).

He couldn’t change his race, and, short of a complete cultural overhaul in that region, the Syrians and Israelis would always be “suspicious neighbors.” Same for Egypt, Phoenicia, Assyria. Same holds true today in our world. Very, very, very sad.

Naaman was also a pretty significant local hero because of his military exploits, but as with most things humans prize, fame can be “here today and gone tomorrow.” Besides, popularity is a heavy weight to tote around for notoriously fickle audiences.

And, the Syrian commander could not fix the fact that he had a skin disease so loathsome that, in Israel, it made you a complete outcast from the rest of society. “Unclean, unclean, unclean.” That’s what a Jewish leper had to announce, so that a clean person would not come into contact with an unclean one.

It took a little Israelite girl, serving in the house of a big-shot with a big problem, to bring some hope. “Go to the prophet in Samaria and be cured.” After a mild political skirmish and a nice-sized journey, Naaman wound up on the doorstep of Elisha, who sent word to him second-hand. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times.”

That’s when Naaman and his super-sized ego lost it. “Why didn’t he come out himself? Pray? Wave his hands over me? We’ve got bigger, cleaner rivers in Syria! What a waste of time!” It took his fellow countrymen a while, but they finally convinced the commander that, if nothing else, no harm could come from taking an extra bath, which he finally did. “And his skin became as smooth as a child’s.”

The story never says so, but you get the feeling that Naaman never again forgot who really was in charge in the grand scheme of things. You also get the feeling that he wondered from time to time what would have become of him if he had simply walked away in stubborn pride “God is a gentleman and will never come uninvited.”

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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