Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a mighty warrior, but he had leprosy.
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:1-3 NIV)
The economy of God’s Word astounds me sometimes. The Holy Spirit can say so much in so few words. In an act of profound grace, a young slave girl saves the life of an enemy commander. Talk about unexpected: she is a recent captive from a besieged nation oppressed by the expert command of a “mighty warrior.” God only knows what she has seen and what she has lost. Deprived of her freedom by a band of raiders, she now serves the wife of a powerful and dangerous man who happens to be responsible for her predicament; he also happens to have leprosy, a disease that is a mark of shame and exile in her culture. She has every reason to despise this man, yet when she hears of his illness, she gives him literally the only thing she has to give: she knows the Source of healing and redemption, and she directs her captor to the prophet who can help him. Naaman goes to the prophet Elisha, receives healing, and vows to worship the one true God: “From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any god except the Lord.” (v.17 NLT)
We know this about her: she was familiar with Elisha’s ministry. Not only did she know of Elisha, but she believed in the power of the God he served, enough to risk her safety to recommend her master go find the prophet. Consider her vulnerable position: had Naaman found Elisha unable to heal, she could have been in very big trouble. She knew that she knew Elisha’s God heals.
Elisha’s God is also her God, and she knows Him to be a God of grace and mercy. Remember, she’s an Old Testament girl. Roughly eight hundred years before Jesus is born, she already has a deeper understanding of mercy and grace than many of her fellow Israelites. She doesn’t give Naaman an eye for an eye. Instead, she extends mercy and grace to a man who does not deserve it, and in fact is by all earthly standards her bitter enemy. Yet he is a man, and he is suffering. She not only helps him, she yearns that he be healed: “If only my master would see the prophet…”
What would you do for your enemy? Jesus died for His- for you and for me and for everyone else who accepts the gift of His life, death and resurrection.
You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)
This might be about the craziest thing Jesus ever said, and he said some pretty radical stuff. “Do good to those that hate you?” HOW? Start by doing what our slave girl did: if you have something that will help, share it with your adversary. Take Elisabeth Elliot for example. Her husband Jim Elliott was killed by the Auca Indians in 1956, but she remained as a missionary in Ecuador with her ten-month-old daughter. Two years later, she took her daughter and went to live among the same Indians who had killed her husband. That took guts and trust. Her willingness to love in the face of danger paid off- Elisabeth Elliot led those same Auca Indians and their families to Christ. She gave the Gospel that brought her life and hope, and her foes finally received it.
Loving our enemies can be bold and courageous, but more often it is a simple matter of choosing love through the course of a normal day. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Proverbs 25:21 NIV) The greatest obstacle to loving an enemy is not opportunity, but willingness. The parable of the Good Samaritan makes this principle plain. Two “good” men pass the wounded man by. By failing to act, they miss the opportunity to overcome evil with good. Maybe it wasn’t “convenient” to help, or they were in a hurry. Naaman’s slave girl could have just kept her mouth shut about Elisha, and made all sorts of excuses to herself about why she shouldn’t speak up. Instead, she did good to the one who had done her harm. Likewise, the only man who stops to help the wounded traveler is his enemy, the Samaritan. What the Samaritan does is inconvenient, but it’s not difficult. He does for his wounded enemy what he would have done for a wounded friend.
Maybe a better question is this; WHY should I love those who hate me? The answer is found in Jesus’s words: that we may be sons of our Father in heaven. By loving our enemies, we are bringing in Jesus’s kingdom. We are setting up a home for our gloriously diverse heavenly family right here on earth. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… (Revelation 7:9) After all, other people are not our real enemy:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
We live in a world where Satan is doing everything he possibly can to divide us from each other. Loving our enemies is the most radical, countercultural, counterintuitive and POWERFUL thing we Christians can do. God alone supplies the power to love this way. We cannot do it in our own human strength, but we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)
On this fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, honor those who died by refusing the hate that killed them. Following the example of a humble slave girl, let us “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
Frederich Buechner, from The Magnificent Defeat:
The love for equals is a human thing- friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely.The world smiles.
The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing- the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.
The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing- to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy for those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.
Then there is the love for the enemy- for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.