There's a story in the book of Kings about a brilliant military commander afflicted with leprosy who hears about a prophet of the Lord and seeks healing through him. The story is Naaman's, and it's a powerful illustration of precisely the kind of tension that I've been talking about for the past week - the tension between what the world can offer and what the Lord/church can.
Naaman hears about this prophet and seeks permission to go, which he is granted by the king who has him in his employ. He travels far and wide to reach the man he's heard about, and the prophet tells him to go and wash in Israel's river, and he will be clean.
Naaman is instantly offended. He's got rivers at home. He's got rivers at home that are far and away cleaner and better and bigger and brighter than Israel's nasty river. He came all this way for the man of God to do something to heal him, not to have him send him away on some silly little mission to wash himself. He's got a thousand objections to this seemingly simple act, all of which have to do to what we today would call an entitlement mentality: he expected something "better."
This is exactly what we're seeing in a world where we have so many systems set up in our societies to care for the needs of human beings. We offer them Jesus, but they're offended. Why should they wash in faith's dirty river - where hypocrites and judgment and arrogance lurk - when the world has so much more to offer them? They've got options. They've got resources. Faith? ....faith presses against man's expectation that he deserves "better."
It's a challenging position to be in as a person of faith, particularly as one who believes strongly in the power of a living faith. And I think that Naaman's servant's argument no longer holds water, which makes it even more a treacherous place to stand.
See, Naaman's servant offered a sober voice and said, "If the prophet had asked you to do something difficult/strange/outrageous, you would have done it. But because he asked you to do something simple, you're offended. You're upset." This was enough to convince Naaman to go down to the river.
Not so today, I don't think. Today, if you try to lay out apples to apples, setting side by side the expectation and the offer, I don't think many understand. I don't think they respond. Tell them that they are willing to do the forty-two different things that the world has to offer them rather than the one offered by faith, and they will simply say, "Yes. Because I know that the forty-two work."
This world would rather count calories and count carbs and count pills and count costs than to walk down to the river of faith and wash themselves clean.
I don't know what the answer to that is. I don't know how to change the world's mind. I don't know how to get them to hear the call of the prophet to wash, except to say that I, for one, will be by the river.
Please come and join me.