Wednesday, May 16, 2018

At the Cost of Community

There was a second cost to Gehazi's selfish pursuit of Naaman's gifts, and it, too, stems from Gehazi becoming afflicted with the same leprosy that Naaman had just been healed of. Yesterday, we saw how this affliction was to be Gehazi's reminder that the true gift of healing was the healing itself, not the offerings that came afterward or anything that man could get out of it for himself. But that wasn't all, and it wasn't even the worst of it.

Gehazi's leprosy would cut him off from his community, a community to which he had always had a front row seat by nature of his position with the prophet. 

We don't really know how Naaman's leprosy was handled. He was not an Israelite, but a Syrian, which means that he was not bound by Israel's cleanness laws. He may or may not have lived much of his life secluded from his community; we aren't told. We do know that he was a high-ranking official in Syria, a man with a great reputation and an even greater responsibility. This may lead us to believe that living as a leper in Syria was not as harsh a fate as living as a leper in Israel.

In Israel, actually, there was no such thing as living as a leper in community. Lepers lived outside of the community. Go back to when Miriam, Moses's sister, became temporarily afflicted with the disease. She was cut off, forced to live outside of the camp, and no one in Israel moved until she was able to come back and be with them. It was considered an abomination unto the Lord. 

Just as Gehazi's deceit and selfish pursuit was an abomination unto his community. 

And so, just like that, the man of the man of God who attempted to use his position to deceive another man, a violation of community and civil law as given by God Himself in the wilderness, was cut off from community with an incurable skin disease. He gave up his front row seats for standing room only, relegated to peeks around the corner and life just out of earshot. 

It seems like a high price to pay. But God takes this community stuff seriously. When He says we are the people of God, He means it - what we do, the way we live with one another, reflects directly on who He is, on who we believe He is. If we're running around trying to take whatever we can from one another, it says something about God. It says that He hasn't changed the way we live. It says that He hasn't provided for our needs. It says that He doesn't control us. We aren't made in His image; He is made in ours. 

That's really the heart of it. Every time we talk about what it means to be a community of God's people, we have to decide whether we're living that way or not. Are we God's people or are we a people who have this God? There is a vast difference between the two. 

Gehazi has an incredible position as the man of the man of God, the servant of God's servant, but at the moment that he goes after Naaman to try to take what he can from the man who has just been healed of leprosy, at the moment that he takes advantage of another human being for his own gain, he is no longer a man of the man of God, but a man who has a man of God. He is no longer worthy of the community he keeps. So he's cut off from it. 

End of story. 

Or is it?

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