2 Kings 5: 1
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 valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
1 Samuel 16: 6
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
Romans 6: 23 (MSG)
Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.
How would you define ‘greatness’? Is there a particular person who comes to mind when you hear that word? Perhaps someone famous, a celebrity, a rock star, an athlete, a footballer, maybe even a politician?
Around 2500 years ago, in the nation of Syria, a man called Naaman personified ‘greatness’ for most people. A military general, he had led his people to victory again and again, receiving adulation and applause from the lofty and lowly alike. From all external appearances, he seemed to have it all. Life couldn’t be better.
But Naaman had a secret weakness, a hidden issue which would eventually limit his ability to do the thing that had made him so popular, in fact, it would slowly kill him. He had leprosy. For a man of influence in his culture, this was the worst possible affliction. Leprosy was not only a horrendous, incurable skin disease that led to appalling disfigurement; it was also a social plague. Lepers were quarantined and died alone. Only a few people closest to him probably knew his secret. He had managed, for now, to conceal it well under his armour and with his public accomplishments and victories.
I think that it’s important for us to remember that even the greatest of people have great needs. We tend to see certain people as being above or immune to the struggles, strife, suffering or sadness that affects the rest of us mere mortals. They appear to live a blessed life, untouched and unaffected by the more difficult issues that we wrestle with on a regular basis. Sometimes we see them and yearn for a life like theirs, we envy the ease with which they seem to breeze through the world.
Do we ever consider that perhaps, like Naaman, they’re just better at hiding their pain from other people? That they have carefully crafted an external image to conceal the inner struggles they face? Their problems might be different than yours, but they are no less serious.
With all his outer success, Naaman faced an inner battle that he couldn’t win, he had an illness that no human could heal. As we will see, only the mercy and power of God was able to cleanse him of his leprosy.
In the same way, the Bible makes it clear that every human ever born is afflicted with a malady called sin. We are sinners by nature and by nurture. And sin, left untreated, will eventually lead to both spiritual and physical death. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, how gifted you might be, how powerful you are in the world’s eyes - you can’t deal with the sickness of sin by yourself.
However, God, in his grace and mercy, had made an antidote available. He sent His son Jesus to take the full penalty and punishment for our sin and in exchange offers us his forgiveness and righteousness. Like Naaman, we can be completely cleansed, healed and restored.
The next time you find yourself overly impressed by someone’s wealth or external appearance, remember that the ground is completely level at the foot of the cross. The richest, powerful and most beautiful people need the life that is found only in Jesus just as much as the homeless addict, the worst convict or the most notorious heathen. For all you know, they might be desperate for you to share Jesus with them and show them what a relationship with God looks like, a life which brings real meaning and purpose, a joy deeper than surface superficialities and shallow successes.
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