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“But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:13-14 NRSV).
Many times we tend to approach our faith as something that is tangible and can be physically possessed. We strive to be made whole and restored by following a list of do’s and don’ts. We incorrectly assume the idea that we must not only offer ourselves, but our good deeds as the basis upon which we “acquire” healing. Our understanding of God becomes skewed and we adopt the idea that if we pray hard enough good things will come. This “prosperity gospel” has become a fabric that is dangerously woven into who we are as God’s children.
In our Biblical story, Naaman was no exception to the “prosperity gospel” regarding faith. He brought extravagant wealth and riches to the king of Israel in order to be healed. Naaman lived under the assumption that healing would occur if he found favor with the king and ultimately favor with the prophet. It was at the prophet Elisha’s house that the fearless commander would hear a way to be radically transformed. Naaman did not need anything but faith. It was with this belief in transformation that Naaman entered the waters of the Jordan. His little mustard seed of faith spurred him onward.
Naaman was not simply healed in a physical sense, but experienced a spiritual healing that awakened a presence of the Divine in Naaman’s very soul. His journey led him to the cleansing waters of God. He left the Jordan River with a new faith and new commitment to his God. He would take the message of salvation to his world.
We are very familiar with Naaman’s story if not in the Biblical sense then in our own lives. We approach God with gifts to earn special favor. We pledge our lives to change that sound something like this, “O God, if you help me this time I will…even again.” Time and again we make this bargain with God until our pledges are hollow and represent the struggles born out of a place of desperation.
The good news is that God does not need our extravagant gifts. God seeks our hearts. There is no magic, no special cure, and no secret spell that will bring us any more or less healing. The gift is already given. God’s grace is offered to us free of charge and without price. All we can do is accept the blessings which are given by the Creator. To assume that we have any more agency regarding our salvation is to diminish the gift of God.
In the Gospel of John, the religious scholar Nicodemus found Jesus and began a dialogue that serves as the basis of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The underlying question that Nicodemus wanted answered was short and to the point. The scholar asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus (the Master) answered, “Believe.”
Whether we read 2 Kings or skip ahead to the Gospel of John, the word of God proves to be consistent. Our belief is what heals us. We are not transformed because our body may be made whole nor are we saved because prayers have been answered. We are restored to wholeness because God’s gift of salvation changes us from the inside out. Our wholeness is not a state of being, but a state of worship. Let us wash our hearts in the waters of everlasting life and be made new people.