A God who heals and frees


2 Kings 5

Frontispiece for Incidents in the Life of a Sl...

Frontispiece for Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.

This is just a fragment of the story, a setup for what is to come.  By her, Naaman comes to learn that there is a possibility for healing in Israel.  Still, she represents an important theme in the story: it is the poor who understand the power and grace of God.  A slave girl trusts in the work of God through the prophet; the King of Israel has no such trust.  Naaman is offended and rejects the prophet; servants persuade him to undertake this simple task of washing in the Jordan River.  Those with wealth and power often have trouble trusting a higher power.  Those on the underside often have no other choice.

So here is this young girl, taken captive in a raid, taken from home and community, made a slave, but she has lost neither faith in God nor compassion for her captors.  “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

But it is hard to pass by this fragment of the story without recognizing that the stealing of people into bondage is taken for granted by the narrator.  There is no sense of horror at the idea of such bondage.  No pause to condemn our degraded humanity.  It just is what it is.  It is what it always has been. It is what it continues to be.  Human trafficking.  Child soldiers.  Economic enslavements.  Child brides sold into marriage.  Domestic violence.  We were not created to enslave or be enslaved.  It was not the way of God in creating and blessing the world.  It is not the way of God shown in liberating the children of Israel from Egypt (and liberating Egypt from slaveholding).  It is not the way of God in the legal codes at Sinai.  It is not the way of God voiced by the prophets.  It is not the way of God revealed in Jesus.  Disciples are called not conscripted.  Faith liberates not imprisons.

But we imprison.  And we often bless our prisoning with the name of God.

Though the narrative presumes a world of slavery, it is a story about being set free.  And Naaman is not only freed from his disease; a deeper, spiritual liberation occurs, a reorientation of his life.  He kneels now to a new god, a god who heals and frees.


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