Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Healed and Human Dignity

For Gehazi to have been so close to the prophet Elisha, was can only presume that it was because he was a trusted man. Elisha knew that he could put his confidence in Gehazi, and the servant had not let him down. But like all of us, this man had his human side that at one point got the better of him, and he paid for this a very high price.

There was a man named Naaman who had come to Elisha for healing. Although he was a high-ranking official among his own people, he had leprosy, and this presented a number of challenges for the man as he tried to carry out his duties and truly be part of his community. Having exhausted his resources for potential healing in his own land, he heard about the man of God in Israel and journeyed to find Elisha. After following the prophet's instructions, Naaman was healed of his leprosy and offered a vast number of gifts to the prophet. Elisha refused, and Naaman turned and went on his way.

Gehazi wasn't having it. He saw the opportunity to get something, and he wasn't about to let it just walk away because the prophet was noble and holy about things. So Gehazi secretly (as though anything can be done in secret in the presence of a prophet) turned and ran after Naaman. When he caught up to the healed man, he asked for only a little bit of that which the man had originally offered, just a token gift, and received it, planning to take it back and tuck it away for his own personal use. 

A little bit of a side note here: we often think it is the destitute and the desperate that are the most vulnerable among us, and they are certainly vulnerable, but those who have been healed have their own vulnerability. In the highs of their healing, they are susceptible to whatever anyone requests of them, eager to contribute and to pay back part of what they have received and to give generously and joyously. We must be as careful not to take advantage of the grateful as we are not to take advantage of the aching. 

Anyway, not much escapes a prophet and Elisha knows immediately what Gehazi has done. Now, there are two levels to what happens next, one that we'll look at today and the other that we'll look at tomorrow.

The first is that because Gehazi has taken advantage of a man just healed from leprosy, he inherits the condition the man was healed of. He becomes a leper himself. 

I think it's possible that Gehazi had spent so much time with the prophet, so much time on the healing side of the equation, that he'd forgotten what it was to have real troubles in the world. He'd forgotten what this healing really means. In this moment, he thought it meant gifts and tributes, and so his own affliction is meant to serve as a reminder to him - this is never about the opportunity to receive payment. Healing is the moment in its own right. 

There's no better way to be reminded what healing means than to be in need of it yourself. So Gehazi was burdened to live the rest of his life remembering that, knowing that intimately from the depths of his own being. The real majesty of the measure of God is not what it's worth in human exchange, but what it offers in human dignity. That's the first lesson Gehazi learns.

The second is perhaps even harder. (Stay tuned.)

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