SUNDAY SERMON: A story of forgiveness

Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OT: 2 Kings 5.1-6

Recently, a guy asked me how I come up with a sermon each week? 

It’s easy, I said. I just preach to myself. And I’ve got plenty to learn. 

This week is the final session of the summer sermon series. I’ve learned all kinds of things, good and bad, from the characters we’ve studied. Today, we learn perhaps the most important lesson of all from a character so obscure few have ever even heard of her. Which makes her testimony all the more powerful. 

Let’s open out Bibles to 2 Kings 5.1-6. This is the story of Naaman, but it’s not him that we are interested in. Read the scripture…

Naaman was a man of means. A warrior at the right hand of the king. A commander of troops. A victor on the battlefield. Yet his wealth and power could not cure him of leprosy, and his leprosy threatened to take his wealth and power from him. He was a man of wealth and power who was powerless to help himself. 

A young girl, who is not named, has an idea. She’s heard of an Israelite prophet who can heal people of leprosy. She tells Naaman’s wife about the prophetic healer. His wife tells him. He tells his king. And the king lavishes money on Naaman to take the Israelites for his healing. 

The text says he gives Naaman ten talents of silver. A talent weighed about 75 pounds. So he gave him 750 pounds of silver. And don’t forget the 6,000 pieces of gold AND the ten sets of fancy clothes that would’ve taken years to weave. All to heal Naaman. At the suggestion of a young girl from a foreign land. 

Let me cut right to the chase and tell you that it works. Naaman goes, Naaman gives them the silver and the gold and the garments, and they heal him. There are some weird details along the way, which you should read later on today, but it works. Naaman is healed of leprosy. 

He is so grateful to the Israelite prophet, Elisha, that he never goes back to his king. He becomes an Israelite and pledges his allegiance to Yahweh, the Israelite God of Abraham. 

What’s so special about this story? The small detail we skipped right over. The young girl. Who was she? 

We don’t know her name. We don’t know her story. We only know she was an Israelite taken captive by Naaman’s armies. She then became his wife’s servant. 

Now, imagine you are in her shoes. You are enslaved to the wife of the man whose army decimated your people. You saw it all happen. You were taken when it was over. 

That man is ill. Wouldn’t part of you want to see him suffer? He’s getting what he deserves. He made you and your people suffer. Let’s see how he does getting a taste of his own medicine. 

But you do know a prophet who can heal him. An Israelite prophet nonetheless. And you have his wife’s ear. Should you tell her? Should he know there’s a chance for him to be healed by your people, the people he destroyed? 

The small detail we skipped over is the awesome forgiveness Naaman’s slave girl shows. She doesn’t think twice. She does everything she can to save him, and she succeeds. 

This is where I am preaching to myself. How is that kind of forgiveness possible? I don’t know about you, but I don’t forgive that easily. For the last year, I have been holding onto forgiveness that I know needs to be given…but I’ve been too pained to give it. Because when you are betrayed and you are attacked, especially by people you trusted, it pains you. You know what I mean, don’t you? 

But after reading this story–the story of Naaman’s slave girl–it put my pain into perspective. My pain is small. And the longer I allow it to live, the bigger it becomes. The tighter the grip it has on me. The more harm it does. 

So I did the thing I needed to do but found it very hard to go through with. I forgave. I said it out loud. I wrote it down on paper. I forgave. And it wasn’t a magical change, but it was healing. Forgiveness is healing. Holding onto hurt becomes more hurtful than whatever happened in the first place. Forgiveness is healing. 

Naaman’s slave proves that. Not only did her forgiveness allow Naaman to heal, but it surely allowed her to heal. It also allowed her people to heal, when it came with a veritable fortune in gold and silver in addition to Naaman himself. Forgiveness is healing. 

Thanks be to God for Naaman’s slave girl, who forgave in the most trying circumstances and helped to heal a nation. Amen.

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