Got your attention, didn’t I? This whole protest drama against our flag, our National Anthem, and our country is on the news 24/7. And social media is having a hay day. We Americans just love living with a reality TV show mentality.
I, like everyone else in the world, have an opinion on the matter. But I’m not going to spout my opinion about that here. I’d much rather talk about Naaman and Elisha, and what Naaman had to say about taking a knee.
You know the story. Little Jewish servant girl tells her mistress how the master, Naaman, could be healed of leprosy if he’d ago see God’s prophet, Elisha. Naaman goes. Elisha refuses to meet with him but sends word to Naaman how he could be healed. Naaman is insulted, and turns to go away. One of his men talks sense into Naaman, who then goes to the Jordan River, dips under the water seven times, and is healed.
Now here is what I want us to consider today. Naaman, probably dripping wet, goes back to Elisha. The prophet seems to be waiting for him. Naaman tells Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (5:15) He promises to never again worship any other god but the Lord. Naaman is not only clean on the outside, he’s a new man from within.
Then Naaman says this:
But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also – when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this. (5:18)
Naaman worked for the king of Aram, a man who worshiped the false god Rimmon. The king sounds like he might have been feeble, because he leans on Naaman to get around. And that would include going into the temple of Rimmon, taking a knee so his master could bow in worship.
Now some of you will say Naaman should have just quit his job, maybe refused to go into that sinful place, or just stayed with Elisha where he wouldn’t have to take a stand at all.
“Judge not,” dear one.
I believe this is the true interpretation of the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Please read Matthew 7:1-5. There is much more to Jesus’ message than verse 1.
Naaman had taken care of the plank in his own eye, the sin in his own life. Then, according to what I read in 2 Kings, he is going back to minister to the king of Aram.
Paul, in I Corinthians 9:19-23 talks about becoming all things to all men. Why? So everyone would like him? So he could get ahead in life? No. He identified with everyone in order to introduce them to their Savior.
In a sense, Naaman is asking Elisha not to judge him if, in his association with the king, he goes into the pagan temple and actually takes a knee. In fact, Naaman is asking Elisha, and God, to forgive him for what will appear to be sin.
“I’m going to be doing my job, Lord, not worshiping that idol.”
And just maybe, the king will notice a change in Naaman and ask him to explain the hope he has, may ask him about Naaman’s God, and may even come to faith in God because of Naaman’s willingness to address the speck in the king’s eye, now that the plank is out of his own.
If God is leading Naaman back to the king of Aram, don’t judge Naaman for not doing what you think a believer should do.
HOWEVER… if you’re using I Corinthians 9 as an excuse to hang out at bars, or associate with dishonest people, or any number of sinful activities stop right there. Because Scripture also tells us to resist evil, live separate lives, not to be linked with unbelievers. It certainly doesn’t give us permission to sin, thinking that is a way to represent God to people who need Him.
Here’s where the “don’t judge” thing comes into play. The only ones who know your heart are you and God. If He hasn’t called you to serve Him by representing Him among the partiers, or the ungodly, or… whoever… then you need to go where He IS calling you. Really calling you.
Can a person associate with sinners and not sin? I believe Scripture is saying exactly that in the verses we’ve looked at today. But I also believe there is a dangerously thin line between associating with sinners for the right reasons, and participating in the sin. Just beware.
I won’t judge your heart. But I will call you out if you are sinning, if that speck in your eye needs addressing. And I want you to do the same for me.