“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’?” (2 Kings 5:13)
That verse is from the wonderful story of the healing of a Syrian military commander named Naaman. You can read the whole story in 2 Kings 5, but here’s the abridged version. Naaman comes down with a dreaded case of leprosy, the grossest curse of biblical times. But in Naaman’s household is a political prisoner captured in Israel. The slave girl is Naaman’s wife’s servant. This nameless girl overhears Naaman whining about his plight and tells him there is a prophet in Israel who can heal him of his leprosy. Even though this referral comes from an anonymous and powerless slave girl, i.e. someone on the very bottom rung of the cultural ladder, Naaman assumes such healing can only come from an important and powerful ruler. So he sends a letter to the King of Israel who freaks out assuming this is some kind of political trick to make him look bad.
And then the prophet Elisha hears about the King’s dilemma and says, “Send him to me.” Naaman shows up at Elisha’s house and gets all upset because Elisha doesn’t even come out to greet him. He just sends a messenger out who tells Naaman to go wash in the Jordan River 7 times. Naaman balks at this because he was expecting Elisha to come out and stage a spectacular miracle healing, and besides they have better rivers in Syria where he could have washed without making this long journey. He is ready to go off in a huff, unhealed, but his servants (note how the least powerful characters in this drama are again the wise ones) deliver the line at the beginning of this post. And reluctantly Naaman listens to reason, washes in the Jordan and is cured.
Naaman’s story came to my mind in the midst of this pandemic because like Naaman all of us are being asked to do very simple things that require no special skills or knowledge. We can all wear a mask and stay a distance from each other, and yet for different reasons masses of Americans refuse to do the only things we can do to combat this virus that has already killed over 225,000 Americans.
Will we listen to those wise enough now who are saying to us, “Hey, if you had to do some super heroic deed to stop the spread of this deadly disease, wouldn’t you do it? So how much more should we do the simple things.”
Naaman came to his senses and was humble enough that he listened to his servants and was healed, Give us ears, O God, to hear and heed the simple things we can do to be restored to health.